ActivismArts and CultureCharityNewsSF Bay Area

SFMOMA & City College Stopped Suing Each Other Over Communist Mural

Updated: Mar 22, 2024 09:11
The Bay's best newsletter for underground events & news

When the SFMOMA first suggested moving Diego Rivera’s 74-foot-wide-by-22-foot mid-century masterpiece of a mural across town for a temporary display in an SFMOMA gallery, experts said it would cost an insane amount of money and would be like moving, “a 70-foot eggshell.” But the mural is an ageless classic, and it was living in a seismically unfit and poorly lit theater at City College scheduled for demolition, where only a few passing students had been enjoying it on a daily basis.

Personally, I think it should be made a permanent installation in Union Square so millions of people will see and visit it, as it is a priceless piece of San Francisco history. We should mount it on the defunct Barneys facade in Union Square as a testament to the failures of capitalism. ⁠

But no one cares what this pinko thinks ; )

Pan American Unity, Diego Rivera, in it’s temporary haunt. at SFMOMA. Image via mliu92

Back in 2021, SFMOMA hired engineers from the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México who collaborated with art installation experts at Oakland’s Atthowe Fine Art Services, to painstakingly move the massive 83-year-old concrete mural panels across town taking 7 trips using a truck with custom-made shock absorbers.

Our communist comrad Diego would have been happy that they used Atthowe to move the mural, as Atthowe is a well-respected, local employee-owned co-op, and not some big corporate capitalist conglomerate.  AND they worked with Mexican nationals on the project.

Local Journalism for Working stiffs

We write for the poets, busboys, and bartenders. We cover workers, not ‘tech’, not the shiny ‘forbes 100 bullshit’. We write about the business on your corner and the beer in your hand. Join the Bay's best newsletter.

SFMOMA estimated the cost of taking down the mural, transporting it, and reinstalling it in both directions was just under $4 million.

$4 million. Sweet Trotsky!

Why this project is so hard and so expensive to do these days is a bit of a head-scratcher, considering Rivera originally painted the mural for the Pan American Fair in 1940 on Treasure Island, and they managed to store it unscathed on an artificial island using the same 1940s tools available to Diego.  Then in 1961 they managed to move it from the middle of the bay to City College without damaging it, using 1960s technology, something tells me it cost $200 including bridge tolls but I digress…they took no chances, and spared no expense in 2024!

$4 Million DOLLARS!  Sweet Inflation!

Three panels of Diego Rivera’s 1940 mural known as ‘Pan American Unity.’ Photo courtesy City College of San Francisco

By the way it is a magnificent piece of art that needs to be seen in person and SFMOMA did an excellent job with the exhibit and you can still hear the audio tour here.

Diego’s exhibition at SFMOMA closed in January, and the total bill had since inflated to $6.4 million.

$6.4 million!  Sweet Proletariat!

Then the two non-profit institutions were locked in a legal battle over who would fit the bill for Diego’s incredibly expensive storage and return to College that was costing millions extra.

SFMOMA’s threw down the gauntlet, claiming City College should foot the bill for the mural’s return and storage while City College fired back, calling foul play on SFMOMA’s handling of the budget and deadlines.

They said, ‘it couldn’t be done,’ they said, ‘It would cost an insane amount of money’, then they said, “fuck it, let’s do it anyway”.  – Local eccentric Alex Mak.

This month the two institutions agreed to drop their respective lawsuits and split the bill. Under terms of the settlement both parties will now share the cost of the overage. The exact amount was not specified…

“The settlement is the result of a positive, collaborative effort by SFMOMA and CCSF’s board leadership and includes essential cost-sharing to support the complex work involved in moving the fragile 30-ton, 22-foot-high-by-74-foot-long mural,” the parties stated in a joint news release.

The mural still belongs to City College of San Francisco and will be installed in a new art complex being built on campus in coming years, financed by an $845 million bond measure passed by voters in 2020.

I wonder what the transport and installation will cost once they finish their new home…accounting for inflation of course…probably best that they refrain from specifics…

Broke-Ass Stuart works because of reader support. Join us now.

Howdy! My name is Katy Atchison and I'm an Associate Editor for Broke-Ass Stuart.

I want to take the time to say thank you for supporting independent news media by reading Supporting independent news sources like Broke-Ass Stuart is vital to supporting our community because it amplifies the voices of a wide variety of diverse opinions. You also help support small businesses and local artists by sharing stories from Broke-Ass Stuart.

Because you're one of our supporters, I wanted to send over a pro-tip.

Our bi-weekly newsletter is a great way to get round ups of Broke-Ass Stuart stories, learn about new businesses in The Bay Area, find out about fun local events and be first in line for giveaways.

If you’d like to get our newsletter, signup right here, it takes 5 seconds.

Previous post

We Be Sushi Closes Original Location, Following Many on Valencia St.

Next post

Effin’ Relax: Your New Chillaxation Station in The City

Alex Mak - Managing Editor

Alex Mak - Managing Editor

I'm the managing editor and co-owner of this little expiriment. I enjoy covering Bay Area News as well as writing about Arts, Culture & Nightlife.

If you're a writer, artist, or performer who would like to get your work out there, or if you've got great things to promote, we've got 160k followers and really fun ways to reach them. We love making things with other Bay creatives, for our partners, and our community. Don't be shy.
alex at
IG: @alexmaksf