DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – Diego Rivera’s murals at the Detroit Institute of Arts have been designated as one of four new national historic landmarks.
Federal officials announced the designation on Wednesday.
The “Detroit Industry” murals, based primarily on the Ford Motor Company’s River Rouge plant, were conceived by Rivera as a tribute to the city’s manufacturing base and labor force of the 1930s. Between July 1932 and March 1933, the Mexican artist completed the murals on all four walls of the DIA’s Garden Court.
“Considered by many scholars to be Rivera’s greatest extant work in the United States, ‘Detroit Industry’ is an exemplary representation of the introduction and emergence of mural art in the United States between the Depression and World War II,” The National Historic Landmarks Program said in a release.
The court walls are broken into segments with renaissance molding and columns within which Rivera painted 27 panels that make up the “Detroit Industry” mural series.
The panels depict industry and technology as the indigenous culture of Detroit and stress the relationship between man and machine and the continuous development of life. Technology is portrayed in both its constructive and destructive uses, along with the relationship between the North and South Americas, management and labor, and the cosmic and technological.
Rivera included a variety of faces and physiques in his figures, reflecting the multiracial work force at Ford as well as his own assistants on the mural project. His emphasis on the multiracial workforce in the automobile panels expressed a Marxist hope for the future power of the working class.
The largely symbolic landmark designation comes amid efforts to protect the collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts from being sold as part of the city’s bankruptcy.
The National Historic Landmarks Program offers technical assistance, recognition and funding for landmarks, but doesn’t shield from ownership changes.
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