Diego Rivera: Murals for The Museum of Modern Art

Water based paint on plaster fresco mounted on cement  
 49 x 39 1/8 x 3" (124.5 x 99.4 x 7.6cm)  
 Smith College Museum of Art. Northampton, Massachusetts  
 Gift of Mrs. Dwight W. Marrow

Diego Rivera. Market Scene. 1930

Water based paint on plaster fresco mounted on cement
49 x 39 1/8 x 3" (124.5 x 99.4 x 7.6 cm)
Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, Massachusetts
Gift of Mrs. Dwight W. Marrow

David Rockefeller, Jr. Rivera’s international celebrity came from his work as a muralist. Conservator Anny Aviram.

Conservator, Anny Aviram: When Rivera was invited to this exhibition in New York he knew that he wouldn’t be well represented if he didn’t show his murals.

David Rockefeller, Jr. But because murals, by definition, were fixed on site, they were impossible to transport. Rivera had to find a different way to showcase his talents. In 1930, the year before his exhibition at MoMA, he began experimenting with a new type of mural that would serve as a prototype for those he would make in New York.

Market Scene was his first portable mural. It’s based on a single detail of an epic mural cycle of the history of the Mexican state Morelos, completed in Cuernavaca, Mexico in 1930. Those murals were commissioned by the US Ambassador to Mexico, Dwight Morrow. When Morrow left his post, Rivera wanted to offer him a gift of thanks.

Anny Aviram: So Rivera decided, ‘I’ll make a portable mural so they can take it with them.’ This is one of his biggest innovations, being able to take the mural out of the context of the building, which, in a way, negates the whole idea of what the mural is.

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