Diego Rivera vs The Rockfellers


“What other Worker-Leader could Rockefeller expect me to paint?” A fascinating account of the artist’s attempt to smuggle the father of the Russian Revolution into his frescoes at the Rockefeller Centre.  His patron, understandably enough, was  none too impressed. Rivera was eventually paid off, and guards hid the unfinished mural (which was later erased) behind a screen:

The management of Rockefeller Centre, anticipating trouble, had arranged for mounted police to be on hand when protesters began to gather. Rivera, who had a special talent for myth-making and self-dramatization (and who must have seen the movie King Kong, which had recently premiered at Radio City Music Hall), described the operation as a military “assault,” in which proletarian foot soldiers were overpowered by the capitalist cavalry, while “the upper air was filled with the roar of airplanes flying round the skyscraper menaced by the portrait of Lenin.” The mounted police charged the demonstrators with the ruthlessness of Cossack enforcers, “injuring the back of a seven-year-old girl with a brutal blow of a club. Thus was won the glorious victory of Capital against the portrait of Lenin in the Battle of Rockefeller Centre.”

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