Diego Rivera. Agrarian Leader Zapata. 1931. Fresco, 7' 9 3/4" x 6' 2" (238.1 x 188 cm).
The Museum of Modern Art. Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Fund
© Copyright 2011 The Museum of Modern Art

Diego Rivera: Murals for The Museum of Modern Art

Exhibition dates: November 13, 2011–May 14, 2012

The Michael H. Dunn Gallery, second floor

In December 1931, two years after its founding, The Museum of Modern Art inaugurated a major exhibition of work by the Mexican artist Diego Rivera. Only the second retrospective presented at the young Museum, the show was wildly popular, breaking attendance records in its five-week run. Rivera’s international celebrity was based on his fame as a muralist, but murals—by definition made and fixed on site—were impossible to transport. To solve this problem, MoMA brought the artist to New York from Mexico six weeks before the opening and provided him with makeshift studio space in an empty gallery. Working around the clock with three assistants, Rivera produced five “portable murals”—freestanding frescoes with bold images commemorating events in Mexican history. 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 reunites five of the murals Rivera produced for this extraordinary commission, 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 working at the Museum. Focused specifically on works created during the artist’s stay in New York, this exhibition offers a fresh look at the intersection of art making and radical politics in the 1930s. Diego Rivera: Murals for the Museum of Modern Art, which will only be presented at MoMA, is accompanied by a richly illustrated publication. It is organized by Leah Dickerman, Curator, Painting and Sculpture, The Museum of Modern Art.

Diego Rivera.  The Uprising. 1931.
Fresco on reinforced cement in a galvanized-steel framework, 74 x 94 1/8” (188 x 239 cm).   Private collection, Mexico
© 2011 Banco de México Diego Rivera & Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, México, D.F./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Note: the image on the cover page of Luxury Traveler for this exhibition is a detail of the picture above


Exhibition notes

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.