Dear Friends of Diego,
Happy Birthday, Diego! (December 8, 1886)
Here is Diego “inventing” our mural. His research resulted in a full-scale mural drawing on the plaster substrate just 7 weeks after he arrived. This was my late partner Julia Bergman’s (also born December 8!) favorite photo of Diego. She bought this print for our Rivera Collection from the Rondal Partridge estate several years ago, with her own money. A big thank you to Meg Partridge for permission to use this photo. (Owning a photo and securing intellectual property rights to publish it are separate issues.) I met sister Elizabeth Partridge at the Women and the Spirit of the New Deal conference. (Living New Deal’s Fall 2018 Newsletter.)
In other photos we’ve been able to make out the name of the research books. Here is Mona Hofmann with books, which we have collected. She is looking at MoMA’s 1940 Twenty Centuries of Mexican Art exhibition catalog (pages 42-43). This is very early in the process because Mona had to leave the mural work abruptly for health reasons. The Coatlicue she is inspecting forms the left half of the center icon from Rivera’s earliest sketch.
(Note: The Twenty Centuries of Mexican Art link states at the lower end, that MoMA collaborated with Google Arts & Culture Lab on a project using machine learning to identify artworks in installation photos. Recently, the Google Arts & Culture Lab produced a piece around Frida’s work. It would be great to get something similar around Diego’s work.)
Christie’s article on Diego Rivera as Revolutionary Storyteller is part of an auction including paintings of children. For many years we had various thoughts about the little girl in the lower center of our mural. Consulting on Dra. Guadalupe Rivera’s book, Los Ninos de Diego Rivera (2009), required us to search through all the images Diego had painted; the little girl was not one. Evidently, Diego was painting many children in 1939, the year before he came to create our mural.
Street Artist JR Takes Over the Paris Metro With His Giant Posters.: the French artist will unveil his homage to Diego Rivera, Chronicles of San Francisco, in April 2019 at SFMOMA.
Saving the Stories
Just got a copy of Conversations with Diego Rivera: The Monster in his Labyrinth. This is a compilation of a year of weekly interviews (1949-1950) almost a decade after he left San Francisco. The nuggets of gold started leaping out at me immediately. Recently, a question has arisen about the “artist’s intent” in having the mural so high on the wall over the books in the library that was never built. Placing the bottom edge so far up the wall is unprecedented in Rivera’s oeuvre. In response to the question “How is a mural painted?” Diego said, “You choose the wall, or take what is offered without a choice in the matter.”
Back in the 1920’s the great Mexican painters; David Alfaro Siqueiros, Jose Clemente Orozco, and Diego Rivera were given the title, Los Tres Grandes, “The Big Three”. Rivera, a huge fan of the movies, might agree that in today’s México, Los Tres Grandes might be filmmakers: Guillermo Del Toro, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, and Alfonso Cuarón, who have won four of the last five Academy Awards for directors. Cuarón’s luscious black and white Roma, stories of his childhood, is in theaters; the common thread, elegant, but vibrant storytelling. As Russian filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein said, the cinema was just “moving murals.”
Here is the link I promised last time for Marevna’s auction catalog.
Note: Life with the Painters of La Ruche by Diego’s common-law wife recounts first-hand stories of painters who inhabited this “beehive” in Montparnasse. Roseberys of London is conducting the “Diego Rivera’s Other Woman: Studio Collection Sale of Marevna on December 5, 2018 …to include portraits of and letters from Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, Moïse Kisling, Amedeo Modigliani, Fernand Leger, and Henri Matisse.”
Longtime partner, Cultural Heritage Imaging, sends word that they have been given an award as a Great non-profit.
Story Corps recently recorded Jean Franco and me in conversation about our collaboration and about Frida. We, also, enacted a performance snippet of our Frida Interview. In 2010 they recorded Julia and me. Interviews are sent to the Library of Congress and 1% are broadcast on NPR.
Sotheby’s posted, Safeguarding the Future: The Struggle to Protect Our Cultural Treasures, which deals with many of our issues.
For all you savers of stories, here’s a link for the Documents of 20th Century Latin American and Latino Arts from the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.
I’ll participate in a 1939-40 Golden Gate International Exposition (GGIE) Celebration panel at the Mechanics Institute on April 4, 2019 and am speaking on Diego Rivera and the GGIE in October 2019 at the Treasure Island Museum.
2020 SFMOMA-CCSF Collaboration
Had a working lunch with the curators of the 2020 Rivera exhibition; James Oles and Lily Pearsall, SFMOMA Curatorial Project Manager. We then went to the Rivera Collection in our CCSF Rosenberg Library to meet with Librarians Abby Bridge and Lisa Velarde. It’s less than 2 years and counting for this show.
SFMOMA’s Claire Bradley, Senior Program Associate, Public Talks and Tours, and her crew came by for a mural tour. They are working on the information for the museum’s visitors.
Conservators and art movers convened at the mural November 16 to continue refining plans for de-installing it. There is a precedent for moving a large Rivera mural. In 1986, very near Diego’s 100th birthday, Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in the Alameda (Sueño de una Tarde Dominical en la Alameda) was moved across the street next to the Alameda park from the seismically damaged Hotel del Prado. The 49 feet, 3 inches by 15 feet, 9 inches mural was moved as one 77,000 pound piece. (The size is about 3 of our upper, square panels.) It was placed, elevated 2 feet, on the foundation of its current home, the Museo Mural Diego Rivera, which was built around it.
Extricating our mural is hard work because it was installed “permanently”; there was yet no concept of the mural’s potential longevity. Design engineers from UNAM, who were coincidently working at Stanford, came by to help assess how to monitor and deal with the vibration problems. The concrete cutting and coring required will generate vibrations. There’s some serious brain power being brought to bear on the problems of the move. The idea is to have City College mirror the engageable mural hanging system at SFMOMA to facilitate mounting it in our Performing Arts Center. Then decades later (way down the road) on its next move, the mural will be easily de-installed. We anticipate thanks from the future.
Though there is always a danger in a move, it becomes necessary as some point because our mural can last hundreds of years. The current building will not. The expertise being brought to bear on this project makes it a propitious time for the mural to transition into the future. The SFMOMA and City College crews will be going to Mexico City in early January to confer with expert art movers at a Rivera Roundtable. This is truly a Pan-American project in the spirit of our 2011 MOU with the Mexican Consulate.
In 1999 I had an encounter with the Chinese-Mexican family, who furnished the heavy equipment for the Alameda mural move. We had dinner at the family home, which seemed like it had been plucked from China by one of their cranes and cradled into Mexico City. The late mother of the family told me in a video interview that she used to wait on Frida at a Chinese store in the Centro Historico. It doesn’t get any better for a storyteller.