January 20, 1932


Students Protest on Hearing a Report That
Rivera and Sert are to Paint Murals


Architect Promises Citizens Will Have an
Equal if Not Better Chance for Commissions.


Class at School for Social Research Declares
Selection of Any Aliens for Building Here "Inconsistent."

A protest against the employment of Diego Rivera, Mexican artist, and Jose Maria Sert, Spanish artist, to paint murals for buildings in Radio City will be made to John D. Rockefeller Jr. by a class of fifty art students in the New School for Social Research. The signers of the letter of protest are members in a class in pictorial analysis and creative practice under Ralph M. Pearson.

In response to an inquiry, a spokesman of the Metropolitan Square Corporation, the Rockefeller holding company for the Radio City development, said that plans were being made for mural decorations "in keeping with the extensive exterior ornamentation in the form of illuminated fountains, trees and promenades." It was said that the murals would be executed by "outstanding artists," but that no contracts for such work had been awarded and no understanding reached with any artist.

The art students' letter says that a report has reached them that Rivera and Sert would be employed to work in Radio City.

Say Americans are Better

"The commissioning of any foreign artist to paint murals for an American building is inconsistent with the achievement of a total harmony between form, function, decoration, and use," the protest declares.
"Such a course is unnecessary on the ground of the quality and equipment of any foreign artist since we have artists as well equipped to interpret American life and build an interpretation into an architectural design as any nation, and much better equipped than are either Sert or Rivera.
"The selection of well-publicized foreign artists for such a commission must be chiefly influenced by such publicity or by the fear of making a decision among less used and therefore less famous American artists."
The students argue against the employment of Sert, who painted murals for the new Waldorf-Astoria, saying that he is "a naturalistic artist" who does not organize "the material of his picture into a form design in harmony with the form design of a building-a statement which is substantiated by his murals in the Waldorf-Astoria." "Also, his romantic attitude toward subject is hardly consistent with the realism characteristic of contemporary thought," they add.

Rivera Called Inadequate

"Rivera, though the simple two-dimensional pattern of his Mexican murals is highly successful as a native Mexican expression and well suited to its place and function in Mexico City, proves himself inadequate to the task of a more mature expression by his landscapes, portraits and New York City frescoes in the current exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art. These works show weaknesses of three dimensional design knowledge which indicate the Mexican murals as being within a decorative stereotype perfected by years of practice and which, by their limitations, reveal the artist's inability to deal successfully with new material and new problems of design.

"Also, this exhibition as a whole reveals an externalized approach to subject and an imposition of design on procedure based on a deeply felt identification with subject and the consequent sensitive and varied controls of subject and design into a more original expression.

"We realize that the choosing of an American artist for so important a task as painting murals in Radio City is a difficult problem, with the difficulty increased by the fact that the creative, design-conscious artists who are best equipped for the work by their assimilation of modern knowledge are handicapped through lack of practice resulting from the infrequency of American commissions.

"We do not believe that this difficulty is insurmountable. We trust that you will use your power to remedy this condition through the healthy process of collaboration between American architects, engineers and artists toward the achievement of a distinctive American style."

Hood Reassures Americans

The letter is addressed not only to Mr. Rockefeller but to Raymond Hood and associated architects in the Radio City development.

When reached last night by telephone Mr. Hood said that while there probably would be murals in Radio City buildings, nothing definite had been decided about them and than in the eventual choice of artists natives would stand as good a chance as foreigners and probably better. Painters not only in this country but in all parts of the world have tried to obtain work in Radio City, Mr. Hood said, and in the development of a project of such an extent many unfounded rumors naturally have arisen.