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San Francisco officials move to block potential sale of historic Diego Rivera mural

January 14, 2021. Summarized by summa-bot.

Compression ratio: 74.3%. 2 min read.

San Francisco's Board of Supervisors voted in favor of giving "landmark" status to a Diego Rivera mural, after its art institute owner suggested selling the work to alleviate its financial worries.

Officials have moved to block the potential sale of a mural by Mexican painter Diego Rivera, after the San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI) indicated that selling the valuable artwork might help alleviate its financial worries.

The city's Board of Supervisors this week voted unanimously in favor of giving the mural "landmark" status, meaning the art college would not be able to make it available to prospective buyers.

The mural, titled "The Making of a Fresco Showing the Building of a City," was commissioned by SFAI's then-president, and was completed by Rivera in May 1931.

In an open letter to college trustees, photographer and SFAI alumni Catherine Opie said plans to sell the mural were "unacceptable. " She announced she was withdrawing her work from an upcoming college auction, saying that she could "no longer be a part of a legacy that will sell off an essential unique piece of history. "

Described by the SFAI as a "fresco within the fresco," the mural depicts both the creation of a fresco and the construction of the city, complete with engineers, sculptors, architects and other assistants.

It's one of three murals Rivera painted in San Francisco between 1930 and 1931.

During the board's Tuesday meeting, San Francisco Supervisor Aaron Peskin said the piece is of "particular significance to the Latinx and the Chicanx communities," later adding, "It is the responsibility of civic and academic institutions to include these communities in decisions pertaining to the mural. "

Prior to Tuesday's vote, chair of SFAI's board of trustees, Pam Rorke Levy, warned that giving landmark status to the college's "only significant asset" would prevent it from securing a $7 million loan needed "to make it through the pandemic and rebuild our enrollment over the next two years. "

In a letter shared with CNN, she said the mural's fate is "inextricably linked" to that of the institute, adding that debts of almost $20 million must be paid back within the next six years.

"If we cannot raise the funds and public support necessary to rebuild our programs, faculty, and enrollment post-pandemic, we cannot continue to safeguard the mural, as we have for the last 90 years," the letter read.

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