The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to start the process after the San Francisco Art Institute tried to sell it the piece.

Por Alma Sacasa
Enero 14, 2021

On Tuesday, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to start the process to landmark a famous Diego Rivera mural after the San Francisco Art Institute, which owns the painting, said that selling it would help them pay off their $19.7 million debt.

The 1931 mural, named The Making of a Fresco Showing the Building of a City, is one of three frescoes in San Francisco by the Mexican muralist. It depicts the creation of both a city and a mural, showing architects, engineers, artisans, sculptors, and painters at work. Rivera himself is also seen from the back, holding a palette and brush with his assistants.

Landmarking the mural would limit how the museum could leverage it, and would also mean that moving the mural from its current location would require approval from the city's Historic Preservation Commission.

Hugh Curry and Diego Rivera (Right)
| Credit: Getty Images

"There's a lot of money in this town," Aaron Peskin, a board member from the museum's district, told the New York Times. "There are better ways to get out of their mess than a harebrained scheme of selling the mural."

Some officials at the museum were against the idea of landmarking the mural, including Pam Rorke Levy, who is chairwoman of the Art Institute board. "Landmarking the mural now, when there is no imminent threat of it being sold, without sufficient consideration of S.F.A.I.'s position would deprive S.F.A.I. of its primary and most valuable asset," she said.

Last year, a private bank announced that it would sell the school's collateral, which includes its Chestnut Street campus, the Rivera mural, and 18 other artworks, but the University of California Board of Regents stepped in and bought the debt in October.