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George Lucas picks Los Angeles over San Francisco to build $1bn museum

In the battle between Los Angeles and San Francisco the force was with the former yesterday (10 January) when George Lucas announced plans to build a museum to house his collection of art and memorabilia in Exposition Park. The Star Wars creator abandoned plans to establish the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art in Chicago last summer after a two-year legal fight with conservationists, setting his sights on California instead.

The decision to build the futuristic-looking museum in Los Angeles comes after nearly a decade and a close-fought competition with San Francisco, which had recently offered Treasure Island as an alternative home. Thanking the mayor of San Francisco, Ed Lee, and the city’s board of supervisors “for their tremendous efforts and engagement”, the directors of the Lucas Museum acknowledged the decision had been a difficult one “precisely because of the desirability of both sites and cities”.

However, Los Angeles won through because the city’s Promise Zone “best positions the museum to have the greatest impact on the broader community”, the board said. The Lucas Museum, which will house the film-maker’s extensive personal collection that includes 10,000 paintings and illustrations by Norman Rockwell, N.C. Wyeth and Robert Crumb, among others, will nestle among the California Science Center and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.

“As a museum uniquely focused on narrative art, we look forward to becoming part of a dynamic museum community, surrounded by more than 100 elementary and high schools, one of the country’s leading universities as well as three other world-class museums,” the directors said.

Michael Govan, the director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and Kerry Brougher, the director of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, were among those who voiced their support for the Lucas Museum at a meeting with the Los Angeles county board of supervisors in November.

Lucas has pledged around $1bn to the project, which is estimated to create at least 1,000 permanent posts. Building the 250,000 sq. ft museum is also due to provide tens of thousands of temporary construction jobs. Its directors said they are now turning their attention to finalising the details and “building what we believe will be one of the most imaginative and inclusive art museums in the world”.