Los Angeles approves long-awaited George Lucas art museum

CNN  — 

After three years of talks – and proposals in three different cities – “Star Wars” creator George Lucas has finally secured a green light for his art museum.

Plans for the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art were unanimously approved by the Los Angeles City Council Tuesday, ending the project’s long wait for a home.

According to the museum’s official website, the $1.2-billion development, dedicated to the art of storytelling, will be built without taxpayer money. Lucas and his wife, Mellody Hobson, are set to donate some of their 10,000-strong collection of paintings, illustrations and movie memorabilia.

As well as works by the likes of Edgar Degas and Pierre-Auguste Renoir, the museum will exhibit storyboards, artwork and props from Hollywood movies. The collection includes items from the “Star Wars” franchise, including Darth Vader’s original mask and the first lightsaber used by Luke Skywalker.

‘A cloud of knowledge’

Set to open in 2021, the museum is scheduled to break ground next year. The approved site at Exposition Park, in southern Los Angeles, is close to the University of Southern California, where Lucas studied film.

“The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art will add another world-class institution to our city’s cultural landscape, and bring a breathtaking architectural jewel to Exposition Park,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti in a statement.

“I am proud to have worked with George Lucas and Mellody Hobson to bring this incredible gift to Los Angeles – and I applaud the City Council for voting to approve a gem for South L.A. that will touch the lives of Angelenos and visitors for generations to come.”

Lucas Museum of Narrative Art.

Gallery space will take up approximately one third of the 290,000 square-foot building. The structure, designed by Beijing-based architecture firm MAD Architects, will also feature theaters, classrooms and lecture halls.

“It’s a cloud of knowledge for people to explore,” MAD founder Ma Yansong told CNN shortly after Tuesday’s announcement.

But Lucas has also faced criticism for the project. In a scathing editorial published earlier this year, Los Angeles Times art critic Christopher Knight dismissed the museum as “a sentimental vanity gallery pumped up on soppy emotional steroids.”

Long search for a home

The project was first announced in 2014, though it has faced high-profile setbacks since. While Lucas had originally hoped to build the museum in Chicago, he eventually withdrew proposals citing “extensive delays” caused by lobbying group Friends of the Parks.

Hoping to preserve the lakeside site, the not-for-profit group had attempted to block the lakeside structure by filing a federal lawsuit in November 2014.

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San Francisco was also touted as an alternative home for the museum. In addition to his Los Angeles designs, MAD’s Ma Yansong created proposals for a rival site on Treasure Island, an artificial island in San Fransisco Bay.

But in January, the museum’s board of directors announced that the Los Angeles bid had won – subject to the submission of further plans and an environmental impact report. Los Angeles City Council Tuesday voted 14-0 in favor of the proposal.