Out of standards in every meaning of that wording, Diego Rivera is uncompromising. His artistic message is communist and anticlerical and he will not change it even under the pressure generated by his provocations.
In New York City, Abby Rockefeller begins in 1925 a collection of modern European art which is not so much supported by her husband but she moves forward. The creation of the Museum of Modern Art in 1929 comes mainly from her personal initiative. She multiplies the actions, including a first solo exhibition which is dedicated to Matisse.
Mexican art shows mostly the people, even if they are confronted with the abuses from the bourgeoisie. Abby, who was also collecting folk art, devotes the second solo exhibition of the MoMA to Rivera in 1931. The thunderous artist had been accused of anti-Soviet activities while working in Moscow and the Mexican Communist Party had fired him. Some recent activities in California showed his interest to the United States.
John D. Rockefeller Jr, Abby's husband, does not see the political trap. In 1933 he commissions some murals for the Rockefeller Center to Rivera. Without warning, Rivera introduces into the picture a portrait of Lenin and categorically refuses to withdraw it despite an attempted negotiation by the young Nelson Rockefeller. The fresco is scrapped but Rivera has achieved his goal of ridiculing the capitalists.
With the invitation of 1931 Abby Rockefeller had commissioned an artwork to Rivera. He completed it during the boat journey to New York. The Rivals, oil on canvas 152 x 127 cm, is about a celebration in Oaxaca. The composition is animated at various distances by groups of characters in traditional clothing, with the shimmering exotic colors that pleased Abby.
The Rivals was given as a wedding present to David and Peggy Rockefeller in 1941. It is estimated $ 5M for sale by Christie's in New York on May 9, lot 424.
SOLD for $ 9.8M including premium