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Diego Rivera's Mural at San Francisco Art Institute. Image from SFAI
Diego Rivera's Mural at San Francisco Art Institute. Photo: SFAI

Diego Rivera's mural could save the San Francisco Art Institute

Conversations to sell Diego Rivera's historic mural for $50 million to save the SFAI have outraged students and teachers.

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2020 hit many cultural and educational institutions, intensifying the financial situation of many. The San Francisco Art Institute has been in financial trouble since 2015, and last year, it nearly lost its campus and art collection at a public sale. In response, the University of California intervened to ease the Institute's debts, but leaders of the SFAI have still decided to sell its iconic mural made by Diego Rivera in 1931, The Making of a Fresco Showing the Building of a City, located along Chestnut Street on campus.

The news has caused  indignation and criticism from the university community. Faculty, students and alumni have all since come out against SFAI's harsh decision.

Supervisor Aaron Peskin told Mission Local that "the idea of someone...selling this is heresy."

"It would be a crime against the art and heritage of the city. Educational institutions should teach art, not sell it," he said.

SFAI adjunct and full-time professors wrote an open letter reflecting on the murals sale and its impact.

"Any sale of the mural that results in its removal from the Chestnut campus is outrageous, and we ask for your ideas and resources as we work to prevent it," reads the letter.

It also touched on the symbolism of selling Mexican's work to relieve the debts of a "predominantly white school." 

Rivera's muralist art was made for the free enjoyment of art lovers and the community, and teachers wondered if "the collective fortune of the board members could easily preserve the school," to avoid the commercialization of the work and cultural heritage left by Rivera.

Among the possible buyers of the artwork is the renowned filmmaker and philanthropist George Lucas, He is expected to preserve the mural should he buy it. It's also yet to be seen whether the move will actually be successful in the end at saving the financial ruin of SFAI.

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