Overall, the removal and destruction of Diego Rivera’s murals, particularly the Man at the Crossroads, at Rockefeller Center was the right result, especially for that time period. The image of Rockefeller Jr.’s father drinking gin (alcohol) surrounded by women in low-cut gowns (prostitutes) in the Man at the Crossroads was the main reason why Rivera was dismissed from the project. The Rockefellers were Baptists and therefore were supporters of the Prohibition. The Prohibition actually ended in 1933 (the time when Rivera began the project, but Baptists still continued to oppose alcohol). As for the presence of prostitutes, according to the tour guide in the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), Rockefeller Jr.’s father was not a “womanizer,” but Rivera was one. Therefore, the mural did not reflect Rockefeller Jr.’s father true character, but Rivera’s.
As for the portrait of Vladimir Lenin, it was possible that the essence of the First Red Scare back in 1919 – 1920 still lingered among the Americans. The Red Scare was a period of anti-Communist hysteria in which there was widespread fear of Communist takeover in America. Overall, it was best that the mural was removed during that time period to prevent conflicts among the masses. Furthermore, this provided a valid reason in the point of view of the Americans for the removal and destruction of the mural. Again, much of the features seen within the mural reflected Rivera’s ideals and beliefs.
In the approved sketch of the mural, Rivera did not include the portrait of Lenin and the portrait of Rockefeller Jr.’s father. Instead, the sketch included two machine televisions (one at each side). The one on the left illustrated people in gas masks, while the other one on the right illustrated a crowd of people with a tomb-like structure in the background (possibly Lenin’s tomb?). Overall, Rivera practically sneaked those images in the mural and refused to remove/cover them.
I would consider Rivera himself to be at fault for the situation, but ultimately it was Abby Rockefeller, the mother of Rockefeller Jr. Abby encouraged Nelson Rockefeller, her son, to have Rivera work on the mural project since both Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse rejected the offer. In fact, Abby was a huge supporter of Rivera’s works and even purchased his sketchbooks and art pieces for MoMA. Overall, although there could have been other potential artists to work on the mural, Abby heavily influenced the decision to invite Rivera. An interesting idea that emerged from the tour guide was if there was a very close relationship between Abby and Rivera. However, most likely the relationship did not exist, and instead, she only deeply admired Rivera’s works. If the relationship were to exist, then it may provide additional explanation on why Abby chose Rivera to work on the mural.