He left his heart in San Francisco.
Remember Chicago's bid for the 2016 Olympics, when we placed fourth behind Rio de Janeiro, Madrid, and Tokyo?
We're not George Lucas's first choice either.
There's very little solid information on the website for the proposed Lucas Cultural Arts Museum, but this mash note from Lucas to the Bay City is prominent:
"The Bay Area has always been home to forward-thinkers and artistic innovators—people who push to do things that haven't been done before. Men like Eadweard Muybridge, Philo Farnsworth and Steve Jobs. Companies like Pixar, Adobe, and Facebook. There's a history of invention here that's as exciting as it is infectious. That's one of the reasons why I'm here, why I raised my family here, and why I chose to start my own business here. It's also why I chose this remarkable region for a new museum. "
We have no idea what's in his collection of a half-million objects.
Well, yes, there are reportedly more than 50 Norman Rockwell paintings. That potentially leaves about 499,950 plastic light sabers and Yoda mugs.
At a minimum, before we hand Lucas an irreplaceable chunk of the lakeshore that Chicago innovators like Montgomery Ward battled to keep "open, clear and free," it would be nice to see an inventory of what we're getting.
No one's told us what would make the Lucas museum a worthy peer to the world-class institutions that would be its siblings on the museum campus.
Here, again from the proposed museum's website, is what Lucas says about his institution's mission:
"I want to create a gathering place where children, parents, and grandparents can experience everything from the great illustrators such as Rockwell, N.C. Wyeth and Maxfield Parrish, to comic art and children's book illustrations along with exhibitions of fashion, cinematic arts, and digital art. The Bay Area was the birthplace of digital arts three decades ago."
OK, let's say we just disregard that last sentence. And let's note quickly that while you probably can't have too many gathering places for children, parents, and grandparents, we do already have a few—places like the Art Institute and the Chicago Children's Museum—that would no doubt be thrilled to get a big fat Lucas donation that would help them expand those areas and programs.
Here's the bigger issue: It's not a huge journey from Rockwell, Wyeth, and Parrish to comic art and children's book illustrations. That's a trip that might be handled nicely in a dedicated gallery or wing of an existing museum. Ditto for exhibitions of fashion, cinematic art, and the still-evolving (read: soon-to-be-dated) field of digital art.
The institutions standing now on the museum campus are dedicated to the exploration of earth, ocean, and sky. If there's something about the Lucas museum that would launch it into that league, we haven't yet heard about it.
It's a big step down the slippery slope from vanity naming rights to vanity institutions.
We're already up to our eyeballs in privately branded public spaces. Discreet, anonymous philanthropy is a distant memory of a less crass era. But slapping a donor's name on an institution that exists apart from that donor—with its own mission, its own collection, and a degree of public accountability—is one thing. Giving a collector a chunk of our most precious public space as the permanent pedestal for his doodads (however desirable those doodads might be) is something quite different.
Something closer to, say, the museum equivalent of Trump Tower.
Lucas could just buy a nice piece of land here to put the museum on.
This isn't likely. When he couldn't get the exact site he wanted in San Francisco's Presidio, Lucas picked up his marbles. But it's what the little crowd of oligarchs now opening their own art museums all over the globe usually do.
And then we'd know he really likes our city.
An exhaustive list of reasons we might want the Lucas Cultural Arts Museum:
1. The site is currently a parking lot.
2. It could turn out to be a good thing.
3. The site is currently a parking lot.