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Diego Rivera’s Detroit Industry

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Detroit Institute of Arts / Detroit / Art

“While I was in the No. 1 building at Rockefeller Center yesterday viewing the progress of your thrilling mural,” Nelson Rockefeller wrote in a May 1933 letter to the Mexican artist Diego Rivera, “I noticed that in the most recent portion of the painting you had included a portrait of Lenin.” The industrialist-capitalist then instructed Rivera to remove it. Rivera refused and the work was destroyed. Rockefeller had misinterpreted the painter’s Detroit murals, many commissioned by Ford and each a widely acclaimed depiction of industry. This virtual examination of one such mural zooms in to reveal the message that was lost on Rockefeller: while celebrating industry’s beneficence, the imagery also warns against its harms. —C.J.F.

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