George Lucas owns an art museum.
This surprising news caused a brief ripple in the art world when he first announced over a decade ago that he planned to build one. Many thought that if it ever came to fruition, it would be simply a novelty, a vanity project for a man made wealthy by appealing to mass popularity.
But his project, the Museum of Narrative Art, is currently being built. It has a projected opening date in 2023, and George Lucas is buying up art like it’s his job.
“Narrative Art” is a relatively new term in the arts conversation, an elevation that includes film, comics, illustration, and other work that finds its merit in the story it tells over the form it takes. Going by what Lucas has been purchasing, the museum’s focus will be on diving into the history of visual storytelling and mythmaking, and on featuring the diverse art that fits this category.
Lucas has also attracted some talent. The new chief executive and director of the nascent museum is Sandra Jackson-Dumont, lured away from her position as head of education at the Metropilitan Museum of Art in New York City. She’s joined by chief curator Pilar Tompkins Rivas, formerly head of the Vincent Price Art Museum and an expert in film and narrative art.
Since 2020, the museum has bought art by Frida Kahlo and Alice Neel, and the particularly evocative The New American Gothic by Criselda Vasquez, a painting of her hard-working immigrant parents. Classical works will be present too, such as The Triumph of Galatea, a 1650 work attributed to Artemesia Gentileschi, bought at auction from Christie’s for $2.13 million. The oldest piece so far in the collection is a 2100 B.C. Egyptian painted piece depicting the afterlife of a man.
The theme, according to both Jackson-Dumont and Rivas, is “legibility.” The Museum of Narrative Art is centered on art meant to tell stories to anyone who sees it, independent of education or artistic background.
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