Where Is the Lucas Collection Going?

Genevieve Gaignard, Trav'lin Light, 2020. Lucas Museum of Narrative Art
"I don't think anyone can assume relevance. The museum of the 21st century, for me, is one that sits in the world, is of the world, and is engaged in the world—not one that sits as a box and says it collects the world."

—Sandra Jackson-Dumont

The sentiment above is boilerplate for directors of big, serious art museums in 2020. The notable thing is that it was said by Sandra Jackson-Dumont, director of the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art (as quoted in a recent ArtNews piece). The partly lowbrow Lucas might seem to have a free pass in the audience engagement department, given a fanbase for whom Baby Yoda on a pedestal is all too creepily relevant. Says Jackson-Dumont: "I like to say that someone may come for Star Wars but leave loving Kara Walker."

That's the Lucas puzzle: how to combine kitsch and seriousness. Curators are actively expanding George Lucas' personal collection, which centers on 20th-century magazine illustration and film memorabilia. Almost nothing Lucas bought was "real art." Many of the newer acquisitions are, focusing on socially engaged contemporary works, often by women and artists of color. That provides some balance to the Norman Rockwell demographic, who won't be around forever. Some of the contemporary pieces, such as the Genevieve Gaignard above, truly do tell a story. On the other hand, there are also nonobjective works like Roxy Paine's sculpture, S2-P2-MAR1. Jackson-Dumont says, "almost every artist we can think of has some history with the narrative form—even within abstraction there is narrative form in many cases.… The definition is something that we feel can expand and contract." 

If everything is narrative art, then the term doesn't mean anything. Maybe what's lacking in the Lucas mission statement is a clear statement of what they don't intend to collect or show. 


Roxy Paine, S2-P2-MAR1, 2011. Lucas Museum of Narrative Art. (c) Roxy Paine


Anonymous said…
Oh, brother. Everything becomes oh-so-trendy, hipster-cool political with a lot of mavens in today's world of culture, music, sports, fashion, entertainment, etc.

Such people should consider the Lucas Museum as too yeechy and icky for their tastes.

Instead, they should mosey on over to LACMA and help Michael Govan totally destroy it. Win-win.
Anonymous said…
What is so puzzling?

The images on Greek vases are technically cartoons and thus kitsch. Arguably, so are the Roman copies of Greek statues. It was their antiquity and rarity that made them into high art.

Granted not all high art has its roots in kitsch or the everyday, but enough does to make for a very good collection and very good programming.

Indeed, unlike you, I see no problem with the programming turning everything into narrative art. In practice, that should favor art that is committed to temporalities of the everyday. At which point, it doesn't matter that the term doesn't mean anything anymore, because there is a greater intellectual and cultural benefit in championing art that eats away at the deadwood that is serious or high art. The Lucas Museum has a unique opportunity to do just that.
Japecake said…
Agreed--if "narrative" is the narrative, the perhaps it ought to be articulated a little more clearly and concretely. It may seem like a pointless quibble, but let's remember that being "off mission" in increasingly invoked as a rationale for museums to deaccession art. Focus and discipline are not bad things when assembling a public collection, no matter how deep the benefactors' pockets are.
Japecake said…
Sorry about the typos above. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Anonymous said…
It's unfortunate the museum lost Don Bacigalupi, who was able to explain this museum's purpose with clarity and vision.