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Diego Rivera: Murals for The Museum of Modern Art

This exhibit attempted to replicate Diego Rivera's one man show that was originally created specifically for The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in 1931.  None of Rivera's Mexican murals could be transported to the 1931 exhibit because they were immoveable.  So the innovative artist devised a portable platform to display his frescoes as freestanding pieces.  Working over a period of six weeks in a room specifically set aside for him at MOMA, Rivera completed his cycle of portable murals.  

The current MOMA exhibit celebrated the 80th anniversary of the original show and featured five of the eight original portable murals.  Pride of place went to the Mexican agrarian leader Zapata with a white horse, from MOMA's own holdings.  The remaining murals had been dispersed, and are housed in public and private collections in Mexico and the USA.  MOMA managed to bring four of the remaining murals to this fascinating show.  

figzapata.jpgDiego Rivera (1886-1957)
Agrarian Leader Zapata (1931)
Fresco on reinforced cement
2011 Banco de Mexico Diego Rivera & Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D.F./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.  

Conspicuously absent were two belonging to the Philadelphia Museum of Art who declined to loan them for the current exhibit.  The whereabouts of the final mural is unknown.  

Although this certainly left a void, MOMA made up by exhibiting three working drawings, a prototype of the portable mural as well as several watercolors, drawings and prints from Rivera's oeuvre.  Rivera brilliantly conveyed the social injustices of the time as well as the exploitation of the Mexican peasants. These murals are as relevant today as they were when originally executed. 

Leah Dickerman, Curator in the Department of Painting and Sculpture at MOMA and Anna Indych-López from the Art History Department, The City College of New York, have written a most informative catalogue.  

On view until 14 May.  

Part of this article was originally published in The Jerusalem Post on 4 March, 2012. 

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