George Lucas made billions of dollars exploring the public appetite for popular morality tales—stories of good and evil, youth versus age, the joy of friendship, the pleasures of ordinary life, and the power of religious faith. Lucas understood that good art doesn’t have to hold itself apart from, and above, the everyday masses of people. In fact, some of the very greatest art is great precisely because it strikes universal chords via broadly accessible images and language.
So when he wasn’t creating his own works like the Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and American Graffiti films, Lucas was collecting potent popular art such as the paintings and drawings of Norman Rockwell, N. C. Wyeth, Jessie Wilcox Smith, Maxfield Parrish, and Alberto Vargas. He also accumulated thousands of pieces of film memorabilia; posters; magazine illustrations; landmark animations, cartoons, and comics; and other artifacts of mass storytelling.
Lucas is unabashed in his defense of art that meets and speaks to the public. “You know, so many artists have a tendency to paint without emotion, without any connection to the audience,” he once told CBS News. “Both Steve [Spielberg] and I are diehard emotionalists. We love to connect with the audience. Rockwell loved to connect with the audience.”
To crystallize and share his attachment to storytelling artistry, Lucas and his wife Mellody Hobson announced a gift totaling more than a billion dollars to create a Museum of Narrative Art. The donation will include all costs of a spectacular 275,000-square-foot building (the latest plans look a bit like a hovering space vessel), a cash endowment of a least $400 million to operate the museum, and more than 10,000 pieces of art that Lucas has collected over decades, including his important Rockwell stash. After abortive wrangles with regulators in San Francisco and Chicago, it was decided that the museum will be built in Los Angeles, at a site near 100 public schools, the University of Southern California, the Coliseum, and three other major museums, to encourage public access. The founding president will be Don Bacigalupi, who helped Alice Walton launch her similarly ambitious (and similarly non-snobby) grand museum in Bentonville, Arkansas. (See 2011 Crystal Bridges entry in this same section.)
- L.A. siting announcement in Los Angeles Times, latimes.com/entertainment/arts/la-et-cm-la-wins-lucas-museum-20170110-htmlstory.html
- Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, lucasmuseum.org