Rivera vs. Rockefeller

The Big Idea:

How does an artist's point of view affect both the intended and perceived meanings of his or her art? How does the meaning and impact of an artwork change when it is made public?

Activity overview

Diego Rivera's murals contained subject matter that expressed his revolutionary ideals. In 1932 John D. Rockefeller Jr., the wealthy American capitalist, commissioned him to paint a mural at Rockefeller Center in New York. The mural was eventually destroyed because it contained an image of Vladimir Lenin, the Russian Communist leader. To understand Rivera's situation and point of view, you will role-play to re-create the sequence of events.

Look closely

Click on each artist button at right to view detailed screens about the artist and his or her works. Be sure to click on all images, view all videos, read all documents, and use the zoom tool to look closely at the works of art.

In this activity you will:

  1. learn about Diego Rivera and research his Rockefeller Center mural
  2. take a side in the controversy and prepare your argument
  3. role-play with your class
  4. reflect on the issues at stake

You will be graded on:

  1. research notes from Making Sense of Modern Art
  2. participation/leadership in role-playing
  3. participation in group discussion
  4. written reflection

New terms:

revolutionary, censorship, mural, public art, point of view