In the 1930s, the Rockefellers wanted to have a mural painted on the ground floor wall of Rockefeller Center and were hoping to have Matisse or Picasso create it. As neither were available he hired one of Rockefeller’s mother’s favourite artists, Diego Rivera. He was given the theme ‘Man at the Crossroads Looking with Hope and High Vision to the Choosing of a New and Better Future’ as Rockefeller wanted the painting to make people pause and think. Little did they know that the mural would become controversial as it included society women drinking alcohol and the infamous Lenin portion depicting communism.
An upset Rockefeller asked Rivera to change the face of Lenin to that of an unknown labourer’s face but Rivera refused. Although the work was paid for, it was immediately covered until 1934 when it was smashed and hauled away. Luckily an Assistant had taken photos before it was destroyed and Rivera was able to recreate the mural in Mexico City where it was renamed Man, Controller of the Universe.
They replaced the mural with a less controversial one called American Progress by Jose Sert depicting a scene of men constructing modern America and featuring Abraham Lincoln which now currently resides in the lobby of the building.