George Lucas Snubs San Francisco, Picks Chicago for Art Museum

The Windy City won the bidding war for the Star Wars director's museum.

George Lucas. Photo: © 2014 Patrick McMullan Company, Inc.

George Lucas has chosen Chicago as the site for his heavily pursued Lucas Museum of Narrative Arts, reports the Chicago Tribune. The institution, which will feature the filmmaker’s collection of movie memorabilia and art, could have potentially had its home in San Francisco or Los Angeles.

“We are honored to be partnering with the city of Chicago and the many cultural, educational and community groups that have come forward with ideas about how the LMNA [Lucas Museum of Narrative Arts] will add to their vibrant work,” Lucas announced on Tuesday. “I am humbled to be joining such an extraordinary museum community and to be creating the museum in a city that has a long tradition of embracing the arts.”

The decision follows months of deliberation, during which three cities expressed their interest in hosting the new museum. San Francisco started out as Lucas’s first choice, but the city’s Presidio Trust rejected his preferred location across from Crissy Field. The trust countered with a site near Lucas’s Letterman Digital Arts Center, while mayor Edwin Lee suggested a waterfront lot across from the Embarcadero.

While San Francisco was wavering, Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel launched his own campaign, offering Lucas a chance to build his museum on a parking lot in the Windy City’s lakefront museum campus, home to the Field Museum, the John G. Shedd Aquarium, and the Adler Planetarium (see artnet News article). Lucas will pay to have the parking facility moved underground, but it is unclear where displaced Chicago Bears’ tailgaters will go.


A rendering of the Lucas Cultural Arts Museum as it would have appeared on San Francisco’s Crissy Field.
Courtesy the Lucas Cultural Arts Museum, via Facebook.


Los Angeles also made a last minute bid earlier this month, encouraging Lucas to consider housing the institution near the University of Southern California, where the director studied his craft (see artnet News report). It is unclear how seriously this offer was considered.

Ultimately, the Midwestern metropolis won out over its Californian competitors. “Choosing Chicago is the right decision for the museum,” Lucas said, “but a difficult decision for me personally because of my strong personal and professional roots in the Bay Area.”

Lee expressed his disappointment in a statement Tuesday, saying “These opportunities to attract hundreds of millions of dollars in private and philanthropic investment to create new public amenities for arts and education, as Mr. Lucas had proposed, come along rarely. I am disappointed that San Francisco will not benefit from this renowned art collection and significant private investment by Mr. Lucas that would have been enjoyed by our families and children for generations to come.”

Lucas has close ties to Chicago thanks to his wife, Chicago native Mellody Hobson. Earlier this year, the couple donated $25 million for a new Chicago arts center (see artnet News report).

The Lucas Museum of Narrative Arts, which was initially going to be called the Lucas Cultural Arts Museum, is tentatively slated to open in 2018, and could cost as much as $700 million to build.

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