George Lucas Advances Firmly with Plans for Museum

by Gabriel Lerman August 4, 2014

In 2012, George Lucas shocked the world by accepting to sell his empire to the Walt Disney Company for $4.05 billion. Many people asked themselves what the Marin County Mogul would do with all that money, especially since he had declared he wasn’t about to embark in any new movie epics. However, it wasn’t long before the director of “THX 1138” (and those other little space movies) stated that his new profession would be that of philanthropy, and that he was planning on donating half of his fortune to global causes for good. He joined other billionaires such as Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, in a cause known as The Giving Pledge, which suggest the richest men in the United States “must give back” part of their fortune to the community. Lucas soon did his part by proposing something that The Atlantic magazine called “his best idea since the creation of Star Wars”: a huge museum dedicated to the art of visual storytelling that would also contain the massive collection that the director has gathered over the span of his filmmaking career, worth an estimated $1billion dollars.

However, making this vision a reality has proven quite a bumpy ride. Ever since he announced his plans for the museum he faced his share of obstacles, including having to change the city in which the museum was to be built. In fact originally the filmmaker wanted to build the Lucas Museum for Narrative Arts in San Francisco’s Presidio, where Lucas Arts is headquartered with Industrial Light and Magic and other divisions. The ex Spanish (then Mexican, then US) military base, now a historic park, also houses the remarkable Walt Disney’s Family museum. But the $300 million that Lucas offered for the construction (plus on two $400 million donations for the museum’s official inauguration), was not enough to convince the executives of The Presidio Trust, who are the administrators of the national park. Tired of not being able to reach an agreement, Lucas finally opted out and choose Chicago instead, where the new institution will occupy lakefront ground neighboring the Field Museum, the Shedd Aquarium, and the Alder planetarium.

However, even though the city’s Mayor, Rahm Emanuel, has become a strong supporter of the project, a group known as the Friends of the Park, have already warned Lucas that they would take legal action to detain the construction in what today are two parking lots, claiming that the museum would violate an ordinance that prohibits any modifications to that part of the city. Convinced that he would overcome these obstacles, Lucas continued on with his plan and has just hired a group of architects known as MAD Architects, with headquarters in Beijing, and led my mastermind Ma Yasong, to design all of the museums installations. Jeanne Gang, of the Gang Studio firm, will be in charge of the museum’s gardens and a pedestrian bridge. Judging from what plans have been made public, the new museum that would open in 2018, would have a futuristic design, sharing a similar tone with the cinematographic work of its founder. For now it’s not clear exactly what it will contain beyond the Norman Rockwell paintings and other works of art that have so far been hidden away at Skywalker Ranch and numerous props used in the Star Wars movies, but Lucas has guaranteed that anyone who visits his museum will enjoy a unique experience in which the lessons that he learned in his many years in the film industry will be illustrated. In the proposal presented to the authorities of the Presidio, Lucas explained that art has helped to tell stories since the early cave paintings, and that installations of his cultural institution would show how this has continued to happen throughout history as well as how he imagines it will in the upcoming centuries.

Gabriel Lerman