Monday, January 23, 2017

The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art

-By Arnie Fenner

After years of frustration, litigation, protests, lobbying and false starts in San Francisco and Chicago, it was announced a little over a week ago that the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art would be built—knock wood—in Los Angeles. Entirely funded by Star Wars creator George Lucas (to the tune of over a billion dollars for construction, maintenance, a $400million endowment, and a collection of over 10,000 pieces-and-growing) it's hard to understand why politicians and planners weren't stumbling all over each other with attempts to lure the project that somebody else was paying for to their cities or states. Go figure.

As happened in SF and Chicago, not everyone is a supporter of a museum devoted to—yech, feh, patooie—lowly "illustration" or "art" created as a component of films and television, but barring delays or community challenges, groundbreaking for the 275,000 square foot museum (designed by Ma Yansong) is scheduled for late 2017. A targeted opening is for 2021. They have ambitious plans that will trace the full history of narrative art while showcasing permanent exhibits devoted to:
  • Illustration
  • Children's Art
  • Comic Art
  • Photography
  • Digital Art
  • Cinematic Design
  • Set Design
  • Prop Design
  • Costume & Fashion Design
  • Makeup & Creature Design
  • Animation
  • Visual Effects
Don Bacigalupi, formerly head of Crystal Bridges, will serve as the founding president of the Lucas Museum. As stated in the organization's statement, "The Lucas Museum will be a barrier free museum where artificial divisions between 'high' art and 'popular' art are absent, allowing you to explore a wide array of compelling visual storytelling." This interview with Lucas' wife and business partner Melody Hobson provides a lot of insight into the museum's intentions and goals.

Above: Ed Summer, Frank Frazetta, and George Lucas
on Frazetta's property in East Stroudsburg, PA, circa 1978.

There are, of course, other wonderful museums around the country that are focused on narrative/illustration, but I think we can all be—should be—excited at the prospect of a showcase with this scope and passion. George Lucas has loved and collected illustration and comic art for decades and, rather than a "vanity project" as some critics unfairly sneer, I think this museum is a further expression of that love. I know that I can't wait to see it.

But until the last hurdles are overcome, until the museum is built and the doors opened, we can get a glimpse of some of the pieces in the collection below while we're waiting. (And much more can be viewed on the museum's official website.)

Above: Catullus Reading His Poems at Lesbia's House by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema.

Above left: Guinevere by William de Leftwich Dodge.
Above right: Brita med julljus by Carl Larson.

Above left: Rob Roy by Howard Chandler Christy.
Above right: The Prince by N.C. Wyeth.

Above: Brawn of These Lads Made the Pike a Match for a Pirate's Cutlass
by Frank Earle Schoonover.

Above left: The Canyon by Maxfield Parrish. Above right: The Checkup by Norman Rockwell.

Above: Prisoner Being Transported by Camel Caravan by James Elliott Bama.

Above: Men Out of Ship Star 2 by John C. Berkey.

Above left: Allegorie de la musique by Alphonse Mucha.
Above right: String of Pearls by Robert Peak.

Above left: Fantastic Adventure by Frank Frazetta.
Above right: Weird Heroes V5: Doc Phoenix "The Oz Encounters" by Jeffrey Jones.

Above left: Weird Fantasy #16 by Al Feldstein.
Above right: Mystery in Space #90 by Carmine Infantino.

Above: Anakin Riding an Eopie by Doug Chiang.

Above left: Queen Concept by Iain McCaig. Above right: Sith Concept by Iain McCaig.


  1. Wow. Would love to Ian McCaig art up close!

  2. Thanks for the post, Arnie. What an exciting bunch of samples. Such a collection not only benefits the public directly, but also the museum will be a center of scholarship, publishing, and conservation, which inevitably trickles down through academia and art criticism. There really aren't too many other museums doing this kind of work, so the LMoNA will be able to break a lot of new ground.

  3. Great post... but... the issue in Chicago had nothing to do with the content of the museum. It was the location. We have wonderful parks and nature areas along the lakefront, thanks to Daniel Burnham's early plans for Chicago. We are fiercely protective of them and every time that area is threatened people rally against it. I'm not sure what the issue was in SF. The art above is wonderful and I would love to have that in Chicago... just not on the lakefront.

    1. Depending on the article & writer, the focus of the Lucas Museum has been questioned on occasion, both in Chicago and SF. Beyond that I knew that the projected Chicago site was on the lake front, which was what Lucas wanted (as opposed to someplace else in the city) and which raised the ire of the community. I think the proposed site was on the extended parking lot for Soldier Field rather than existing park land, at least according to this piece:

      As for San Francisco, there are a number of articles about his attempts to build at the Presidio (like this one);

      Followed by challenges of building on "Treasure Island" as an alternative site in SF, which I guess had limited access and would've required him to construct a water taxi service as well, it's probably best L.A. got the museum

    2. The hell you talking about,Amelia-we ended op saving a parking lot.


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