“As an artist I have always tried to be faithful to my vision of life,
and I have frequently been in conflict with those who wanted me to paint,
not what I saw but what they wished me to see.”
― Diego Rivera
Rome has the breathtaking Sistine chapel. Paris has the enigmatic Mona Lisa. Barcelona has the wonderful creations of Gaudí. America’s Comeback City has the epic Detroit Industry Murals.
These murals are composed of twenty-seven panels spread over four walls. It’s without a doubt a masterpiece by the one and only Diego Rivera (they are among the most stunning works of art I have ever seen).
After visiting the Nissan stand at the North American International Auto show or NAIAS and witness the unveiling of their concept vehicles, checking out their 2016 Model Lineup, then touring Motor City with Show Me Detroit Tours and refueling for the afternoon at the chic Maccabees at Midtown, our final stop of the day was the Detroit Institute of Arts or DIA to see one of the city’s most famous (controversial at first) and famous artistic creations located inside the Rivera Court.
Already known as one of the major leaders of the Mexican Murals Movement and celebrated painters on both sides of the Atlantic (as well as in the Art World with big names like Cézanne, Matisse and Picasso among others), Diego Rivera was commissioned by William Valentiner (Director of DIA at that time) and received funding from Mr. Henry Ford’s son, Edsel Ford who collected and appreciated art.
He arrived in Detroit alongside his young wife (and future world-famous artist in her own right) Frida Kahlo. They spent close to a year, from April 1932 to March 1933 in Motor City. Little did they know that it would change their lives…forever.
It certainly was not an easy project and challenge, considering the fact that it took place during one of the most difficult and traumatic time in history, at the lowest point of the Great Depression not only in Detroit but all over the United States. There were also numerous protests by unemployed automobile workers and fierce opponents against this costly project in Detroit.
In spite of this, they moved forward. To fully understand the reality of the automobile industry, Diego Rivera visited the Ford River Rouge Plant in Dearborn, Michigan on many occasions and stayed for a long time in order to observe and memorize the actual process of the creation of an automobile. From raw materials to their transformation, to the assembly and finishing touches until a finalized vehicle rolled out of the assembly line and driven to the parking lot.
Moreover, the carefully watched the manual labor provided by the workforce along with the supervisors all the way to top management.
Rivera’s observations and comprehension of the cycle of automobile making were then put down on paper. He created sketches and then traced the walls of the interior court at the DIA.
The four walls were blank canvases and only he (along with his assistants) created the outlines, painted them passionately with bright hues and gave shape to his creative vision which became a reality at the end of only eight months!
Upon entrance, visitors are flooded with natural light coming from the ceiling. This accentuates the vividness of the colors of any of the panels.
Now, there is so much to see in one given space! To better understand this absolutely remarkable work of art, one must follow the cardinal signs (and counterclockwise) then turning to the south and ending with the West.
Starting with the East Wall
The main central panel consists of a baby in fetal position inside a plant bulb. This is the sign of a new life, new beginnings, just as the sun rises from the east.
The two top panels are images of native women in their birthday suits holding grains and fruits which are the main products of the region.
Followed by the North Wall
On the northern mural, we witness the transformation of raw materials which in turn are turned into steel and metal, all that is necessary to create the vital parts for the vehicles like the engine for instance.
One can almost feel the extreme effort and dedication from the plant workers who did the repetitive movements for long hours, day in day out.
One interesting fact is that, Diego Rivera included himself and is among the crowd of laborers. If you look closely, on the top left, there is a group of “green men” on the assembly line and he is the one with the rounded black hat. Did you spot him? 🙂
There sure was no minute to spare and the workers gave their all during their exhausting workdays.
Hope you enjoyed Diego Rivera’s Detroit Industry Murals at DIA: A Masterpiece Part 1
Stay tuned for Part Two as I continue the visit of Rivera Court along with the West and South Walls and also include a short 360 degree video for your viewing pleasure!
In closing, I invite you to watch the master at work. Enjoy this silent and incredible black and white two minute video of the making of “Detroit Industry Murals”.
Now I turn it over to you!
Do you know the works of Diego Rivera AND Frida Kahlo?
Have you been to a specific city just for its art?
If so, where was it?
Tell us all about it in the comments.
In the mean time, happy viewing art lovers!
Tashi Delek, Todo lo mejor, All the best.