The Cash-Strapped San Francisco Art Institute May Sell a Beloved Diego Rivera Mural to George Lucas to Shore Up Its Finances

Art Net:

The possible sale of the work, which was done in 1931, is getting public blowback

The San Francisco Art Institute, which has faced financial hardships in recent years and whose future has long been in question, may soon sell off one of its greatest treasures.

A December 23 letter to staff and faculty from vice president and dean of academic affairs Jennifer Rissler indicated that “all options to save SFAI” are in play, and that the school’s board had voted to explore “pathways and offers for endowing or selling” a site-specific 1931 mural by Diego Rivera that has been appraised at $50 million.

Some present at a December 17 meeting of the school’s board (but unwilling to go on record) say that president Pam Rorke Levy indicated that the potential buyer is filmmaker George Lucas, whose Lucas Museum of Narrative Art is under construction in Los Angeles.

A statement from SEIU, the union that represents adjunct faculty, says that Levy shut down an attempt at the board meeting to hear from those who opposed the sale, and told those present that the school had lined up a buyer who wanted the mural for “his museum” in Los Angeles.

“SFAI cannot comment further but to say a number of conversations have been taking place with several institutions about the possibility to endow or acquire the mural to ensure the future of the school and uphold our mission,” Levy, who denied the SEIU’s allegations, said in a statement issued to Artnet News.

Board member Doug Hall, meanwhile, says there is “no immediate plan” to sell the mural.

“We do not comment on speculation about acquisitions,” a Lucas museum representative told Artnet News in an email.

But the possibility of the work being sold is already getting public blowback.

“It would be a crime against art and the city’s heritage,” Aaron Peskin, a local official, told the San Francisco-based publication Mission Local. “Educational institutions should teach art, not sell it.”

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