Monday, January 23, 2017

Lucas Museum: "Los Angeles lost by winning"




     I'm a museum geek. I'm not ashamed to say it. Maybe a little ashamed. We live in a society where you can, oh, make it your life's mission to see a game in every ballpark in America and nobody raises an eyebrow. Nobody mocks. Nobody points out that those ballgames, they're pretty much all the same, aren't they? That would be rude.
     But find meaning in museums and the public has the tendency to reach for its pistol.
     No matter. I'm a member of the Art Institute of Chicago and visit whenever I can. I go to the Field and the Museum of Science and Industry and the Museum of Contemporary Art, and as many of the lesser lights as I can. It's fun.
     And when I hit a different city, I make a beeline to the museums the way others check out restaurants. Yes, sometimes they're quite modest. I was in Hiroshima last March, on business, and visited its art museum. Not that I was impressed, mind you. Add a few brooms and a bucket and it could have been a forgotten closet at the Art Institute. But as I say about opera, not liking museums is part of liking them.
     In that light, we turn to the nascent Lucas Museum of Narrative Art. Hooted from Chicago by the Friends of the Parks, a David vs. Goliath triumph more improbable than a bunch of teddy bears defeating the evil Empire, the showcase for the Star Wars creator's attic was briefly tussled over by San Francisco, which already rejected it once, and Los Angeles. Then, earlier this month, the museum landed with a thud in the City of Angels.


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18 comments:

  1. I'll give Lucas this, at least the LA building isn't as ugly as the two piles of pigeon shit he wanted to inflict on Chicago.
    But I read Christopher Knight's takedown of the LA proposal & it's a masterful dissection of a massive joke on the public!
    Aside from a few genuine works of art & I include Norman Rockwell as an artist, most of the collection is just various props & junk he saved from the Star Wars movies. Now that will be of interest to those fanboys, but I expect the Lucas Museum to go the way of the Liberace Museum in Las Vegas. As Liberace's fans died off over the years after his death, so did the museum dedicated to him & his outrageous clothing, cars, candelabras & other bizarre tchochkes.
    20 years from now, LA will be wondering what to do with an ugly building that no one uses anymore.

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  2. I can hardly wait to see the Trump Museum of fine velvet art and plaster lawn statues, which I suppose one of the boroughs will feel obligated to host. Only 4 more years.

    john

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  3. Knight's takedown was not only brilliant, but goes to the heart of what annoys me personally about Lucas: His pretentiousness and self-importance.

    The most incisive parts of Knight's piece IMO are:

    Here [narrative art is] just a puffed-up euphemism for illustration....For whatever reason, though, [Lucas] seems determined to pretend it’s not.

    And:

    The garbled story [the museum] tells is about one wildly successful mass-culture filmmaker whose deep desire is to be publicly recognized as an artist.

    Exactly. And it parallels what happened to the Star Wars franchise over time. Star Wars was an enjoyably silly homage to Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers, etc., that somehow got spun into some sort of profound philosophy of the universe. If Lucas wants to regard himself as a modern-day Schopenhauer, that's his business, but he should do it without inflicting architectural monstrosities on the rest of us.

    Bitter Scribe

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    1. I only saw the original star wars, but the sequels and prequels seem to be doing just fine

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  4. I wouldn't give his films or museums two cents.

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  5. The Goebbels line was way over the top. It managed to belittle both victims of Nazi horrors and the straw-man "public" you're referring to. As a museum-goer, I've never experienced worse than polite curiosity over why I attend or good-natured ribbing from people who like me. You may have received worse, but I'd be stunned if anything you've experienced makes the likening of those who don't go to museums to Nazi leaders an acceptable exaggeration. I wish an editor had pushed back here.

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    1. It's a famous quote. I think people are so used to generalized comparisons to the Nazis that they've lost the ability to make distinctions. If I said he was carrying a knife with a death's head handle, like an SS dagger, I am not saying he's a Nazi, or the knife is a Nazi. The Goebbels quote about scorning culture is probably the most well-known quote of its kind. That you react by clutching your heart and collapsing, well, that's your problem, not mine.

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    2. I for one was not offended and my idea of a good museum is one with an excellent cafeteria, which by the way one can find in the Field Museum, along with an excellent and entertaining chef.

      John

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    3. Actually, the line "Whenever I hear the word 'culture' I reach for my pistol" has been attributed to Goering, not Goebbels, although it is unlikely he ever said it, since he considered himself a connoisseur and encouraged the Wehrmacht division named for him to loot Italian art treasures to decorate his residences.

      Los Angles is culturally a better fit for the museum than Chicago, and that's where it should have been all along. But I don't agree that it will necessarily be a disaster, even there, and was a bit put off by the superciliousness tone of Knight's piece. I don't think the new building concept is all that bad, and it may be considered a reasonably clever and efficient use of an oddly shipped piece of property. And considering the notion of a museum of narrative art, I see no reason why, if done properly, a exhibition devoted to the art of story telling, even if in a popular rather than "fine arts" medium, shouldn't be interesting and informative. The Museum of Comic Book Art in Brussels is a good example.

      Tom Evans

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    4. Tom, look up Hanns Johst. The line, "Whenever I hear of culture... I unlock my Browning!" appears in his Hitler-dedicated play Schlageter (Act 1, Scene 1), 1933. Apparently, everyone attributes it to someone different. Schlost was the quintessential anti-intellectual intellectual, of which expect to see a few more exemplars in the coming years.

      john

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    5. Thank you for changing the line, even as you see it as my problem and not yours.

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    6. I didn't change it because you found it objectionable. I changed it because it was historically inaccurate.

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    7. Yes, but thank you, nonetheless!

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  6. Yes I know about Johst as the originator of the quote, or something close to it. But according to Mr. Google, Goering is the only Nazi big wig it has been attributed to. No mention of Goebbels.

    Just want to keep Neil from inadvertently promoting alternative facts.

    TE

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  7. About as many people around these days who can distinguish Goering from Goebbels as can tell which of the comedy team is Laurel and which Hardy.

    john

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    1. I have a good vignette about confusing Goering and Goebbels. Another time.
      '

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