Diego Rivera Mural at San Francisco Art Institute Could Still Be Sold

The fate of the San Francisco Art Institute’s beloved Diego Rivera mural still hangs in the balance, despite previous reports that the painting would be saved, not sold.

On Tuesday, Cushman & Wakefield announced that it would be selling the campus of SFAI, a famed art school that closed amid severe financial strain in 2022 after more than 150 years in business. That property, located at 800 Chestnut Street, also includes the Rivera mural, titled The Making of a Fresco Showing the Building of a City (1931).

At 74 feet wide, the Rivera mural is considered an important one, even for an artist who produced many sizable works in the medium. Commissioned by SFAI itself, the painting depicts workers producing a fresco in the very space where the Rivera work is set. ABC News has reported that it could be worth $50 million.

Related Articles

A shirtless man points a finger to the heavens. He holds a microphone in his other hand, aarkness and a few lights loom behind him.

Freddie Mercury Auction Planned, San Francisco Art Institute Files for Bankruptcy, and More: Morning Links for April 27, 2023

Crystal Bridges’s Diego Rivera Show Is Long Overdue, But Shies From His Politics

“The fresco has made SFAI an international destination for the study of Rivera’s work and is considered an outstanding example of his mastery of the medium,” the now defunct school notes on its website.

In 2021, with the prospect of closure looming, SFAI leadership made attempts to sell the mural, hoping to lure money to the school. Students and professors decried these attempts, with a union representing adjuncts saying that “this would provide only a limited lifeline, and does not address patterns of misbehavior and mismanagement by S.F.A.I.’s board and executive officers.” (SFAI denied these allegations.)

Amid the outcry over the plan to sell the mural, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to begin the process of making the Rivera painting a landmark, which would legally ensure that it could not be moved.

In April of last year, Rivera fans were heartened by a $200,000 Mellon Foundation grant given to the school for the support of the mural. Upon receiving the grant, SFAI said it would restore the work, which many took as a sign that the painting would not be sold. Then, in July, SFAI announced that it would officially shutter.

Now, it appears as though the mural is being put up for sale, along with the rest of the campus. ARTnews has reached out to the Mellon Foundation to ask about the status of the grant.

“The real property is being marketed for sale. The Diego Rivera mural, which is the personal property of the SFAI bankruptcy estate, is located at the real property,” Gregg Kleiner, counsel to the trustee, said in a statement to ARTnews. “If the bankruptcy estate receives a viable and acceptable offer for the real property and the mural together, the estate will move forward with a combined sale, which sale will be subject to required notice and bankruptcy court approval.” 

He continued, “The SFAI bankruptcy estate is also exploring a sale of the mural alone. Based on available information, the mural was designed to be removable from the real property. If the bankruptcy estate receives a viable offer for the mural only, the Trustee is likely to propose a sale of mural alone, subject to required notice and bankruptcy court approval.”

A Cushman & Wakefield spokesperson declined to provide a price for the property, which contains 93,000 square feet of space.

That year, the New York Times reported that year that collector and filmmaker George Lucas had been interested in buying the Rivera mural for his forthcoming Lucas Museum of Narrative Art in Los Angeles. That sentiment was reportedly voiced during a board meeting in 2020, before the work received landmark status, however.

Tom Christian, an executive managing director at Cushman & Wakefield, said in a statement that that the 800 Chestnut Street property “will make an inspiring home for another education institution, museum or other creative / innovative use.”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *