With a timeless classical style, it is surprising that the Museum of Fine Arts in St Petersburg in Florida was built in the early 1960’s, in contrast to the Brutalist architecture of, say, the Hayward Gallery in London which was opened only a few years later. A more modern extension was opened in 2008, designed by designed by Yann Weymouth and Hellmuth, Obata + Kassabaum (HOK), providing a new entrance atrium, café, galleries for photography and works on paper and, crucially, new temporary exhibition galleries.
Today those galleries have been taken over by members of the ruling families, fighters, heroes and villains from the iconic film Star Wars in the exhibition “Star Wars and the Power of Costume” as the art of film costume is displayed through photographs, drawings and 60 costumes in this collaboration between the Smithsonian and Lucas Museums, including Queen Amidala, Chewbacca, X-Wing Pilots, Droids, Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and Darth Vader himself.
The permanent collection at the Museum is impressive, ranging from classical Greek art to contemporary, and it is interesting to draw parallels between the designs for Star Wars with work on show in the older half of the building from the native Phumbu Mask from Zaire, kept safe until needed by the Chief to assert his spiritual authority during a crisis, the statue of Aphrodite – perhaps a model for Princess Leia – and Thorwaldsen’s early 19th century statues of “Mercury about to Slay Argus” in front of two paintings by Romney of two splendidly-dressed British officers from the late 18th century. Might there also be comparisons between the Death Star and Dale Chihuly’s “Blue Float with Gold Leaf, Red Berries and Red Jimmies”? Let your imagination roam…..