Feb 8, 2023 2 min read

SFMOMA to Display 30-ton Rivera Fresco for Another Year

Pan American Unity at SFMOMA. | Ingleside Light file photo

City College of San Francisco estimates its priceless masterwork won’t return to Ingleside until 2027.

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Diego Rivera’s expansive and priceless fresco won’t be returning to the neighborhood for years, but that doesn’t mean the public won’t be able to see it.

SFMOMA will host Pan American Unity through December 2023, and another San Francisco museum is working out the details to show the masterwork next.

The 30-ton fresco was expertly restored and carefully moved from City College of San Francisco’s diminutive Diego Rivera Theatre to SFMOMA in 2021 for an exhibit called Diego Rivera's America.

The exhibit closed on Jan. 3, and City College was not in a position to take it back.

“They have committed to housing it through December of 2023,” City College Chancellor David Martin said at a November meeting of the college’s facilities committee. “Ultimately they are asking us to find the next location for it by January 2024.”

The college’s decades-in-the-making Performing Arts and Education Center that will prominently display the fresco is closer to breaking ground than ever before, with $60 million more in 2020 Proposition A bond funds recently allocated to the project. The latest timeline shows construction starting in 2024 and a ribbon cutting in 2026.

Back to Treasure Island?

Rivera and a team of assistants created the fresco in 1940 as the headlining fine arts exhibit of the Golden Gate in International Exposition on Treasure Island. The piece was destined for a never-built City College library designed by Art Deco architect Timothy Pflueger.

And return to Treasure Island it just might more than 80 years later.

The Treasure Island Museum is interested in creating a three-to-four-year exhibition with Pan American Unity as its focus with a spring of 2024 opening date.

City College’s Board of Trustees voted to negotiate with the museum over the proposal. The deal would help the college avoid storage costs and keep the fresco displayed for the public.

The museum is developing a proposal detailing transportation logistics, exhibit configuration and plans for displaying and caring for the fresco.

City College faculty expressed concerns over Treasure Island’s accessibility to public transit, the fresco’s safety in moving it half way across the bay and should an earthquake strike the landfill isle.

But their overarching concern was whether the fresco could come back to Ingleside in time for the Performing Arts and Education Center grand opening.

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