Rivera’s partnership with the Rockefeller family continues to be one of the most intriguing artist/patron relationships of the 20th century. The research we completed for the exhibition Diego Rivera: Murals for The Museum of Modern Art offered the chance to take a closer look at this unlikely collaboration between an avowed Communist artist and members of an extraordinarily wealthy family known world-wide for their successful capitalist ventures.
In preparing for the show, we learned about Abby Aldrich Rockefeller’s keen interest in Rivera’s work and the important role she played in making his retrospective exhibition at MoMA in the winter of 1931 a reality. We also uncovered new details about Rivera’s notoriously ill-fated commission at Rockefeller Center in 1933. Key to these discoveries was a series of conversations between the show’s curator, Leah Dickerman, and David Rockefeller, Sr., who was a teenager when Rivera was in New York and remembers his visits to the family home and the controversy around the artist’s mural at the RCA building (now known as the GE building).
Just before our exhibition opened, Mr. Rockefeller kindly agreed to give a recorded interview along with the historian Peter J. Johnson, leaving us with an invaluable first-hand account of one of the most captivating moments in Rivera’s long and eventful career.