George Lucas and his wife, Mellody Hobson, spoke to the Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday as council members gave their unanimous approval to the Museum of Narrative Art, the $1 billion project to be built in Exposition Park that will showcase the Lucas collection.
Groundbreaking is estimated for early next year, with a 36-month construction timeline and an opening set for sometime in 2021.
Earlier this year, Lucas announced that he had selected Los Angeles for the project, after previous proposals to locate in San Francisco, his hometown, and in Chicago, Hobson’s hometown, stalled out. The museum is a gift to the city of Los Angeles, and will come with an endowment of at least $400 million.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who joined them at the council meeting, said that the gift represented the largest single donation from one family to a city. He called the museum a “new jewel that will be at the center of the crown,” and said that it will bring 1,000 construction jobs and 350 positions when it opens.
At the council meeting, Lucas talked extensively about his vision for the museum, and of the importance of the visual arts, including filmmaking, in shaping history, perception and myth.
He told the council members that the showcase of popular art “appeals to people emotionally, but also tells you something about who you are.”
“It is the thing that tells us, ‘this is what we as a society believe in,'” he said.
Lucas also recalled his days as a student at USC, which is just next door to his planned museum.
“The goal of the museum is to inspire people to think outside the box, to imagine whatever you want to imagine, to help build on the myths that help bind our city and our people together, and that is what I am hoping to do here,” Lucas told reporters afterward.
Hobson said that she was a “little bit heartbroken” that plans fell through to locate the museum in San Francisco and Chicago, but later said that the location in Exposition Park has proven to be wise because it is close to 100 schools, important because of the educational mission of the museum.
The museum will be adjacent to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the Natural History Museum, and a museum of African-American history and art. The five-story museum will include 300,000 square feet of floor space, and include a cafe and restaurant, theaters, lecture halls, classrooms and exhibition space.
The Lucas collection includes about 10,000 paintings, illustrations and other items, with works from Norman Rockwell, N.C. Wyeth, Thomas Hart Benton and many others, along with mementos from many films, including “Star Wars.”
Among the items slated for the museum will be Luke Skywalker’s first light saber, Darth Vader’s helmet and items from the movies “Casablanca,” “The Ten Commandments” and “The Wizard of Oz.”
Chinese architect Ma Yansong designed the project, which will be built on seven acres.
The Lucas Museum will be the latest addition to L.A.’s cultural landscape. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is scheduled to open a museum at Fairfax Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard in 2019.
“We have come here to join the other museums in Los Angeles, to be a partner, to make Los Angeles a museum city, so that the arts, history and all the other things that you could learn in a museum have a real strong presence here, and I think that is very important,” Lucas said.
Garcetti said that even though the Lucas museum will feature motion picture artifacts as part of its collection, it won’t be in competition with the Academy museum.
“The Academy Museum and this museum are very different,” Garcetti said. “…That is exclusively about motion picture art. This includes that as one of many different elements of their art. So as such I think it is quite a different mission. It is going to be quite a different look. It is quite a different location.
“We have an unquenchable desire for culture here, so even if it was an overlap I think it would do well. But I really see them as distinct missions.”