On Tuesday, San Francisco’s team of commanders voted 11-0 to begin the process of assigning beloved Diego Rivera’s mural to a landmark after the San Francisco Art Institute. Francisco, which owns the $ 50 million of the painting, said the sale would help pay off $ 19.7 million in debt.
Designating the mural as a landmark will severely limit how the 150-year-old institution can take advantage, and government officials behind the measure said selling it is likely not on the grid for now. Removing a mural with landmark status will require approval from the city̵7;s historic preservation committee, which has extensive powers.
“The city has a lot of money,” said Aaron Peskin, a board member from the district where the institution lives and is a supporter of the proposal. “There are better ways to get rid of their clutter than by selling their hairless murals. ”
During a public hearing on Monday’s resolution, art institute officials opposed the idea. Art Institute committee chair Pam Rorke Levy said, “Building a landmark for murals at the moment when there is no imminent threat. Sold. Without adequate consideration of SFAI’s position, SFAI will lack the primary and most valuable assets. “
This 1931 work entitled “The Making of a Fresco showing the Building of a City” is a fresco interior fresco. This scene depicts the creation of the entire city and its murals, with architects, engineers, craftsmen, sculptors and painters working hard. Rivera saw himself from behind holding a palette and brush with his assistant. It is one of three murals in San Francisco by a Mexican muralist who has had a strong influence on other artists in the city.
Years of costly expansion and declining enrollments have put SFAI in a tough financial situation, exacerbated by the epidemic and loan default. Last July, a private bank announced it would sell school collateral, which included the Chestnut Street campus, Rivera murals and 18 other artworks, before the University of California’s Board of Regents took over the debt. October Through the new deal, the institution has six years to buy back the property. If not, the University of California will take over the campus.
Faced with the threat of foreclosure, school administrators have been searching for a suitable buyer, although Ms. Levy said, “The school’s first choice is to keep murals in place by attracting clients or partner institutions to build. Many funds Will allow us to preserve, protect and present the murals to the public. “
Last month, Mr. Levy expressed two possibilities with the board members and staff. One involves filmmaker George Lucas purchasing a mural for the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art in Los Angeles. (The museum said it would not comment on speculation about the acquisition.) Another would see the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art owns the mural. But let it be on campus as an extra space.
But a museum spokeswoman said nothing emerged as a result of early discussions. “We have no plans to purchase or provide SFAI murals,” SFMOMA communications officer Jill Lynch told The New York Times.
The school’s Chestnut Street campus has been a designated landmark since 1977, but it is possible that some of the murals may have been sold or removed.
In recent days, alumni and faculty have rallied against selling the murals. They include renowned artist Catherine Opie, who published an open letter condemning the school board’s actions and announcing the withdrawal of photographs she planned to sell at an institutional fundraising event.
“I can no longer be part of a legacy to sell a unique history,” she wrote.
After hearing that the murals were likely to have gained landmark status, Ms. Opie sighed in relief.
“I’m excited and relieved,” she told The Times. “I’m tired of seeing art being used as an asset in the first line of institutional defense.”