Covarrubias and Rivera: Men at the Crossroads

Miguel Covarrubias, Rockefeller Discovering the Rivera Murals, gouache and ink on paper, 1933. Estimate $7,000 to $10,000.


Composed in 1933, this caricature by Mexican artist Miguel Covarrubias shows a dismayed Rockefeller pulling back a drape to discover a portrait of Soviet Union Leader Vladimir Lenin included in Diego Rivera’s mural Man at the Crossroads. The story of Rivera’s controversial painting and its untimely destruction came into sharp focus last spring, when the Mexican Cultural Institute in Washington D.C. put together a show, “A Man at the Crossroads: Diego Rivera’s Mural at Rockefeller Center,” to tell the tale. Covarrubias’ piece is up for sale in Swann’s upcoming June 4, 2015 auction of American Art. 

Jose Rafael Bejarano,  Diego Rivera at Work on the Mural…, silver print, 1934. Sold October 20, 2005 for $1,150. 
Born in 1904 in Mexico city, Covarrubias moved to New York at just 19. After being introduced into New York’s “Smart Set” of literary and cultural elites, Covarrubias found success as an illustrator. His sketches and caricatures appeared in Vanity Fair, Vogue and The New Yorker, among many other publications. It was through this circle that he came to know Rivera and his wife, artist Frida Kahlo, eventually collecting Rivera’s work. Covarrubias and his wife, Rosa, formed a close friendship with Rivera and Kahlo. The four were often photographed together in Mexico City. 

Bernice Kolko, from Ten Photographs of Frida Kahlo, platinum print, 1953-54, printed 1996. Sold October 21, 2008 for $7,800.

In addition to Covarrubias’ work appearing in our American Art auction, some of Kahlo’s works are currently on display the the New York Botanical Garden. The exhibit is a recreation of Kahlo’s garden at Casa Azul, the home she shared with Rivera in Mexico City, which was a frequent gathering site for artists, writers, and cultural influencers like Covarrubias. 

The American Art auction will be held Thursday, June 4, 2015 at 1:30.