WTF Is the George Lucas Museum?

N.C. Wyeth, "The Pioneer & the Vision) (c. 1918), in the collection of the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art
N.C. Wyeth, “The Pioneer & the Vision) (c. 1918), in the collection of the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art

Yesterday morning news broke that filmmaker George Lucas will locate his Death Star museum in Chicago, not in San Francisco or Los Angeles, as previously discussed. It also seems the museum is being renamed, from the Lucas Cultural Arts Museum (which was redundant anyway) to the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art.

What exactly is narrative art?, you may ask yourself. Well, let’s look at the website of the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art for edification. There, it states:

Narrative art tells a story. The genre uses the power of the visual image to ignite imaginations, evoke emotions and capture universal cultural truths and aspirations. What distinguishes narrative art from other genres is its ability to capture a shared experience across diverse cultures preserving it for future generations.

This is sort of like saying: Narrative art is art because images.

If we look at the artworks, however, 17 of which were posted today by Gizmodo, something more of a definition emerges: narrative art, it seems, is basically figurative art that springs from the white Western culture experience. Pioneers! Slice-of-life mid-20th-century Americana! Western folk tales! And, of course, Star Wars. Who could forget Star Wars?

Here, perhaps inevitably, Clement Greenberg comes to mind. From “Avant-Garde and Kitsch” (1939):

The pre-condition for kitsch, a condition without which kitsch would be impossible, is the availability close at hand of a fully matured cultural tradition, whose discoveries, acquisitions and perfected self-consciousness kitsch can take advantage of for its own ends. It borrows from it devices, tricks, stratagems, rules of thumb, themes, converts them into a system and discards the rest. It draws its life blood, so to speak, from this reservoir of accumulated experience.

But hey, let’s give Lucas a chance. Maybe he can explain things a little more. Oh, see, here’s a quote from him further down the website:

“The best way to truly understand narrative art is to experience it.” —George Lucas

Yes … yes, indeed. Assuming the alternative is to not experience it, I couldn’t agree more.

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