Diego Rivera Mural to Get Landmark Standing, Blocking Potential Sale

On Tuesday, metropolis officers unanimously voted to begin the method to designate a beloved Diego Rivera mural as a landmark after the San Francisco Artwork Institute, which owns the $50 million portray, stated that promoting it could assist repay $19.7 million of debt.

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

“There’s some huge cash on this city,” stated Andrew Peskin, an elected official from the district the place the institute resides and a sponsor of the proposal. “There are higher methods to get out of their mess than a harebrained scheme of promoting the mural.”

The 1931 work, titled “The Making of a Fresco Exhibiting the Constructing of a Metropolis,” 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 laborious at work. Rivera himself is seen from the again, holding a palette and brush, along with his assistants. It’s one in all three frescoes in San Francisco by the Mexican muralist, who was an unlimited affect on different artists within the metropolis.

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

Confronted with the specter of foreclosures, faculty directors have looked for an appropriate purchaser, though Pam Rorke Levy, the board’s chairwoman, has stated that the college’s “first selection could be to endow the mural in place, attracting patrons or a accomplice establishment that might create a considerable fund that might allow us to protect, defend and current the mural to the general public.”

Final month, Ms. Levy floated two prospects with board members and workers. One concerned the filmmaker George Lucas’s shopping for the mural for the Lucas Museum of Narrative Artwork in Los Angeles. (The museum stated it could not touch upon hypothesis about acquisitions.) One other would have seen the San Francisco Museum of Trendy Artwork take possession of the mural however go away it on campus as an annexed house.

However a museum spokeswoman stated that nothing got here from early discussions. “We’ve no plans to amass or endow the S.F.A.I. mural,” Jill Lynch, a communications officer with SFMOMA, instructed The New York Occasions.

The college’s Chestnut Avenue campus has been a chosen landmark since 1977, but it surely was attainable that, as a part of the inside, the mural might have been bought or eliminated.

In current days, former college students and school 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 now not be part of a legacy that can unload a vital distinctive piece of historical past,” she wrote.

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

“I’m thrilled and relieved,” she instructed The Occasions. I’m bored with seeing artwork leveraged as an asset within the first line of protection for establishments.”

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