The destruction of Diego Rivera’s mural Man at the Crossroads is a controversial matter because it epitomizes the infringement upon the freedom of expression, but whether the action was right or wrong is dependent on a person’s perspective on it. When he was commissioned to create a mural for the nearly completed Rockefeller Center by the Rockefellers during the Great Depression, Rivera had to centralize it around the theme “man at the crossroads looking with hope and high vision to choosing of a new and better future,” which gave origin to the mural’s name. However, Man at the Crossroads received much criticism and disapproval due to its propagandistic intentions favoring communism over capitalism, made evident by the portrayal of both ideologies. On the right side, communism is depicted as being peaceful and structured, with its iconic symbol Vladimir Lenin unifying people through the joining of hands. In contrast with the left side, capitalism is depicted as being more violent and chaotic, with John D. Rockefeller Jr. drinking liquor and being surrounded by women drinking and smoking, policemen on horseback beating down protesters and soldiers carrying bayonets and flamethrowers.
The Rockefellers should’ve anticipated his style of art and “personal additions” based on his prior murals, such as The Uprising and Pneumatic Drilling, which were based on the Mexican Revolution and the defiance against authoritative individuals and the labor and construction manifesting in a depression-ridden New York City respectively, both reflecting communism and his convictions. It seems as if aesthetics were far more essential to the Rockefellers than ethical values; otherwise, a different artist should’ve been chosen to undertake the task. Instead of abolishing the elements of communism from it, Rivera proposed to counteract the portrait of Lenin with a portrait of Lincoln, but was rejected, paid for his efforts and forbidden from Rockefeller Center. Another reason for his dismissal was because of the portion featuring Rockefeller drinking during Prohibition, which greatly offended the Rockefellers.
Although it is understandable as to why many Americans were against it during the time of its fabrication, with the Red Scare and the potential threat of communism encroaching upon the foundation of their daily lives, capitalism, this fear should not have instituted the mural’s demolition. Rivera was conveying his expressions and ideas like many other artists, but they were against the conventional beliefs that Americans held. A lesson that emanates from Rivera’s incident, still relevant to this very day, is the appropriateness of political and social values in works of art or other things such as movements during specific periods of time because people will make judgments on anything, whether it be an art piece or decisions made by politicians, based on current events and surroundings.
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