Future of Diego Rivera's San Francisco landmark mural in question

The mural's home has always been the SF Art Institute, until the school closed in July due to a series of financial hardships

Lyanne Melendez Image
Monday, September 12, 2022
Future of Diego Rivera's SF landmark mural in question
The future of Diego Rivera's "The Making of a Fresco" is in question, as it's home, San Francisco Art Institute, closed due to financial reasons.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A few months ago, the art community was shocked to find out that the San Francisco Art Institute had closed for financial reasons. The institute's most valuable asset is a mural by Mexico artist Diego Rivera. The question now is what will happen to that mural, one of three by Rivera located in San Francisco.

"The Making of a Fresco" was painted by Diego Rivera in 1931. It's home has always been the San Francisco Art Institute on Chestnut Street.

But that same institution which operated for 150 years, closed in July due to a series of financial hardships.

One week before they did, conservators had just finished restoring the mural.

Historian Will Maynez, prefers the term "conserved."

RELATED: Mural by world-renowned artist Diego Rivera moved from SF City College to SFMOMA

"Conservation means you clean it up and you take care of the little glitches, the inpainting and all that. In the meantime I know the mural is in good shape," explained Maynez.

But the public's access to the mural is now in question. There is also an effort to preserve the Institute's historical archives, documents like the two receipts that show what they paid Rivera for the mural, a check for $2,500 and another for $500.

"Which was a lot of money at that time," clarified Jeff Gunderson, the institute's librarian and archivist during a 2021 interview with ABC7 news.

This day, the mural may be worth an estimated $50 million.

The University of California owns the land and the building and was in a lease agreement with the Art Institute.

WATCH: Remembering work of legendary muralist Diego Rivera on Mexico's Independence Day

Legendary muralist Diego Rivera envisioned unity between Mexico's rich culture and the industrialized United States

The mural could be detached and transported to another site, except that last year the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to give it landmark status which means that legally it cannot be moved -- they did this to block the potential sale of the mural.

Supervisor Aaron Peskin was the architect of that idea.

"A couple of years ago it came to my attention that they were thinking of ripping out one of Diego Rivera's three San Francisco fresco mural and I joined with my colleagues and the community and bestowed landmark status," said Peskin who is in conversations with other college institutions to find a proper use for the building.

Whatever the outcome, Maynez says Rivera would have wanted the public to have access to the mural free of charge.

"And people can go there and see it during viewing hours, but it would be publicly accessible," he added.

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