Diego Rivera was the subject of MoMA’s second monographic exhibition (the first was Henri Matisse), which set new attendance records in its five-week run from December 22, 1931, to January 27, 1932. MoMA brought Rivera to New York six weeks before the exhibition’s opening and gave him studio space within the Museum, a strategy intended to solve the problem of how to present the work of this famous muralist when murals were by definition made and fixed on site. Working around the clock with two assistants, Rivera produced five “portable murals”—large blocks of frescoed plaster, slaked lime, and wood that feature bold images drawn from Mexican subject matter and address themes of revolution and class inequity. After the opening, to great publicity, Rivera added three more murals, now taking on New York subjects through monumental images of the urban working class and the social stratification of the city during the Great Depression. All eight were on display for the rest of the show’s run. The first of these panels, Agrarian Leader Zapata, is an icon in the Museum’s collection.
This exhibition will bring together key works made for Rivera’s 1931 exhibition, presenting them at MoMA for the first time in nearly 80 years. Along with mural panels, the show will include full-scale drawings, smaller working drawings, archival materials related to the commission and production of these works, and designs for Rivera’s famous Rockefeller Center mural, which he also produced while he was working at the Museum. Focused specifically on works created during the artist’s stay in New York, this exhibition will draw a succinct portrait of Rivera as a highly cosmopolitan figure who moved between Russia, Mexico, and the United States, and will offer a fresh look at the intersection of art making and radical politics in the 1930s. MoMA will be the exhibition’s sole venue.
Organized by Leah Dickerman, Curator, Painting and Sculpture.
The exhibition is made possible in part by BBVA Bancomer, with major support provided by the National Council for Culture and the Arts (CONACULTA).
The Museum acknowledges generous funding from David Rockefeller, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, and The Mexican Friends of Rivera: Dr. Abraham Franklin and Gina Diez Barroso de Franklin, Roberto and Aimée Servitje, Yvonne Dadoo de Lewis and Martin Lewis, Marie Thérèse Hermand de Arango, Juan Beckmann Vidal and Doris Legorreta de Beckmann, Timothy Heyman and Malú Montes de Oca de Heyman, and Enrique Norten.
Special thanks to our hotel sponsor, Hôtel Americano, Chelsea, New York.
Additional support is provided by the Consulate General of Mexico in New York and by the Mexican Cultural Institute of New York.
Support for the publication is provided by The International Council of The Museum of Modern Art and by The Museum of Modern Art's Research and Scholarly Publications endowment established through the generosity of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Edward John Noble Foundation, Mr. and Mrs. Perry R. Bass, and the National Endowment for the Humanities' Challenge Grant Program.