Plans were initiated for a mural by Diego Rivera, a renown Mexican muralist, at Rockefeller Center. It was “Man at the Crossroads”, a seven year project with an initial theme “looking with uncertainty but with hope and high vision to the choosing of a course leading to a new and better future”. With a seemingly universal theme, this project was expected to be a success. Right?
Wrong. This theme had a much different view within Rivera and within the Rockefeller family, for they are much different people. Rivera, when thinking of devising a better future, though of communism, of revolution, of rebellion. His visit to Moscow in the late 1920s led him to be only more fascinated with the idea of revolution and communism, thus causing the image of Vladimir Lenin to be involved in his mural. The Rockefeller family, on the other hand, were successful due to capitalism, which would obviously cause them to disapprove of the image. The Rockefeller family saw “revival” as the availability of labor due to the building of New York City skyscrapers and other places, something involving “hard work”. Rivera did use that ideal within his art, but unlike his images of the Mexican revolution, his fresco experimentation and his sketchbook of Moscow, they were not expressive of Rivera’s own ideals.
Was the removal of the mural the right result? I would have to say of course. Although I am not so much a fan of the idea of capitalism, the image of Lenin in Rockefeller Center would not only cause the commotion of other people at Rockefeller Center, but would completely clash with Rockefeller’s ideals of expensive, high class living. Who was at fault? I do not truly believe anyone was; Rivera only wanted to express his ideals of revival while Rockefeller wanted his own to be expressed. That is in fact, the main conflict between the ideals of capitalism and communism.
Although the mural controversy and the creation of Rockefeller Center is important and it is preferred for one to know about both of these to know about the image of Rockefeller Center, one can know about it through walking through the Center of itself(or at least a part of it). The expensive clothes, the shiny buildings and stores, the taxis, even the incredibly over-priced food: this maintained image of the high cost living would make the Rockefeller family proud today.
The main lesson of this mural controversy is simple but unfortunate: that placing communist ideals within pure capitalism would never work. Maybe there is a significance in bringing this lesson back during the Occupy protests at Wall Street…
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