San Francisco can claim to be one of the three U.S. cities where artist Diego Rivera worked, but his and wife Frida Kahlo’s time in the City by the Bay was twisted with infidelity, controversy, and newsworthy drama. “Diego Rivera was already world-famous at that time. He was considered by many artists, including many San Francisco artists who opposed the commission he was going to execute, to be the world’s greatest living artist,” writer Gary Kamiya told Alta Live.
Selecting Rivera, an ardent Communist, to create a mural in the “bastion of capitalism,” the Pacific Stock Exchange Lunch Club, “led to this kerfuffle in the San Francisco artistic community,” Kamiya said. But the resulting mural, The Allegory of California, is a treasured piece of art and one of three Rivera murals preserved in the city. Depicting one of Rivera’s many lovers, it reveals some of the turmoil in his marriage to Kahlo. “The relationship of Diego and Frida is unique and tortured but brilliant and wonderful in some ways,” Kamiya said. “They were larger than life in their romance.” And perhaps their tumultuous relationship, their frequent affairs, and the resulting risqué artworks made them an even better fit for San Francisco. “We like to think of ourselves as being a wide-open town and a place that’s hospitable to risk-taking artists—and, in this case, artists of genius.”
Check out these links to some of the topics Kamiya and Beth Spotswood brought up this week.
- Read “They Left Their Hearts in San Francisco,” by Kamiya, from Alta’s Summer 2022 issue.
- Read “Coming Soon: El Último Sueño de Frida y Diego,” by Emily Wilson, from Alta’s Summer 2022 issue.
- Visit Diego Rivera’s America, an exhibit at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
- Visit the Pan American Unity mural at SFMOMA.
- Read about Pan American Unity’s move to downtown San Francisco.
- Visit the mural The Making of a Fresco Showing the Building of a City at the San Francisco Art Institute.
- Watch Frida, a 2002 biopic of Kahlo.
- Read more of Kamiya’s work for Alta.•