Economy

Diego Rivera Mural to Get Landmark Status, Blocking Potential Sale

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On Tuesday, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted 11-Zero to begin the method to designate a beloved Diego Rivera mural as a landmark after the San Francisco Art Institute, which owns the $50 million portray, mentioned that promoting it will assist repay $19.7 million of debt.

Designating the mural as a landmark would severely restrict how the 150-year-old establishment may leverage it, and public officers behind the measure say that promoting it’s prone to be off the desk for now. Removing the mural with landmark standing would require approval from the town’s Historic Preservation Commission, which has broad authority.

“There’s a lot of money in this town,” mentioned Andrew Peskin, a board member from the district the place the institute resides and a sponsor of the proposal. “There are better ways to get out of their mess than a harebrained scheme of selling the mural.”

During a public listening to on the decision on Monday, officers of the Art Institute objected to the thought. Pam Rorke Levy, chairwoman of the Art Institute board, mentioned, “Landmarking the mural now, when there is no imminent threat of it being sold, without sufficient consideration of S.F.A.I.’s position would deprive S.F.A.I. of its primary and most valuable asset.”

The 1931 work, titled “The Making of a Fresco Showing the Building of a City,” is a fresco inside a fresco. The tableau portrays the creation of each a metropolis and a mural — with architects, engineers, artisans, sculptors and painters arduous at work. Rivera himself is seen from the again, holding a palette and brush, along with his assistants. It is one among three frescoes in San Francisco by the Mexican muralist, who was an unlimited affect on different artists within the metropolis.

Years of expensive expansions and declining enrollment have put S.F.A.I. in a troublesome monetary scenario made worse by the pandemic and a default on a mortgage. Last July, a non-public financial institution introduced that it will promote the college’s collateral — together with its Chestnut Street campus, the Rivera mural and 18 different artworks — earlier than the University of California Board of Regents stepped in to purchase the debt in October. Through a brand new settlement, the institute has six years to repurchase the property; if it doesn’t, the University of California would take possession of the campus.

Faced with the specter of foreclosures, faculty directors have looked for an acceptable purchaser, though Ms. Levy has mentioned that the college’s “first choice would be to endow the mural in place, attracting patrons or a partner institution that would create a substantial fund that would enable us to preserve, protect and present the mural to the public.”

Last month, Ms. Levy floated two potentialities with board members and workers. One concerned the filmmaker George Lucas’s shopping for the mural for the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art in Los Angeles. (The museum mentioned it will not touch upon hypothesis about acquisitions.) Another would have seen the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art take possession of the mural however go away it on campus as an annexed area.

But a museum spokeswoman mentioned that nothing got here from early discussions. “We have no plans to acquire or endow the S.F.A.I. mural,” Jill Lynch, a communications officer with SFMOMA, advised The New York Times.

The faculty’s Chestnut Street campus has been a delegated landmark since 1977, nevertheless it was attainable that, as a part of the inside, the mural may have been offered or eliminated.

In current days, former college students and college members have organized to oppose any sale of the mural. They included the celebrated artist Catherine Opie, who revealed an open letter condemning the college board’s actions and saying the withdrawal of {a photograph} she had deliberate to promote at a fund-raiser for the institute.

“I can no longer be a part of a legacy that will sell off an essential unique piece of history,” she wrote.

After listening to that the mural was prone to obtain landmark standing, Ms. Opie breathed a sigh of reduction.

“I’m thrilled and relieved,” she advised The Times. “I’m tired of seeing art leveraged as an asset in the first line of defense for institutions.”



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