The University of California is aiding the San Francisco Art Institute, but S.F.A.I. officials say selling a $50 million Rivera could save the school. Former students are outraged.
The San Francisco Art Institute was close to losing its campus and art collection to a public sale last fall, when the University of California Board of Regents stepped in to buy its $19.7 million of debt from a private bank, in an attempt to save the 150-year-old institution from collapse.
The agreement provides a lifeline, but the future of a beloved artwork — a mural worth $50 million by Diego Rivera that officials say could help balance the budget — is still up in the air, and faculty and former students are outraged.
The 1931 work, titled “The Making of a Fresco Showing the Building of a City,” is a fresco within a fresco. The tableau portrays the creation of both a city and a mural — with architects, engineers, artisans, sculptors and painters hard at work. Rivera himself is seen from the back, holding a palette and brush, with his assistants. It is one of three frescoes in San Francisco by the Mexican muralist, who was an enormous influence on other artists in the city.
Years of costly expansions and declining enrollment at the institute have put it in peril, a situation that has worsened during the pandemic.