The City Club Celebrates 80th Birthday of Diego Rivera’s First San Francisco Fresco

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With roots in the art deco era, and built as a monument to American capitalism, the City Club of San Francisco is a wonder of early 20th Century American architecture and art. This year, the quintessential San Francisco wedding and party venue is celebrating the 80th birthday of its most famous work by one of the most influential artists and personalities of the period.

san francisco diego rivera mural

The City Club of San Francisco is celebrating the 80th birthday of the great Mexican muralist Diego Rivera’s first commissioned fresco outside of Mexico.

People from all over the world come to the City Club to see Rivera's Allegory of California.

The City Club of San Francisco is celebrating the 80th birthday of the great Mexican muralist Diego Rivera’s first commissioned fresco outside of Mexico. “Allegory of California,” completed in the summer of 1931, spans the 10th and 11th floors and the ceiling of the club’s grand stairwell. Its prominent placement and colorful impact on the club are a reflection of the artist’s importance on social and art history.

“People from all over the world come to the City Club to see “Allegory of California,” said Michelle Kimmins, Director of Sales and Catering. “Its significance is more than being a part of San Francisco or even California art history—Rivera and his artwork hold significance in world history.”

The City Club, a private club that hosts private events—such as San Francisco wedding receptions—occupies three floors of the Stock Exchange Tower on Sansome Street. This historic building was designed by noted San Francisco architects Miller & Pflueger under the direction of Timothy L. Pflueger (1892-1946), to house the offices of the brokers who worked ‘on the floor’ of the adjacent San Francisco Stock Exchange.

The extraordinary artwork incorporated in the building begins with two monumental sculptures of ‘Agriculture’ represented by feminine figures and ‘Industry’ represented by masculine figures that flank the tower’s entrance. These sculptures are the works of sculptor Ralph Stackpole (1895-1973), who was the most celebrated artist in San Francisco during the 1920s and 1930s. Stackpole is the one who suggested Pflueger bring Rivera to San Francisco to paint the 2-story staircase wall at the City Club.

Pflueger’s choice of Rivera over California artists was somewhat controversial. Newspapers referred to the incongruity of choosing an artist of Rivera's leftward political leanings to paint a mural in ‘the citadel of capitalism.’ Nonetheless, the renowned artist came and in 1931 completed what has become the centerpiece and symbol of the City Club.

Rivera arrived in San Francisco in November, 1930 accompanied by his wife of one year, Frida Kahlo, to paint the City Club mural for US$2,500. During this time, Kahlo and Rivera lived at the studio of Stackpole.

The large figure in the fresco is Califia, a warrior queen who ruled the mythical California (for which the state is named) in the 1500 novel The Adventures of Esplandián by Spanish writer Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo. Her right hand mines the earth for its hidden treasure while the left hand holds the treasures that grow on its surface. Tennis great Helen Wills Moody, a friend of Stackpole's, posed as Califia.

The fresco also features portraits of James Marshall, discoverer of gold, and Luther Burbank, famed horticulturist. Other figures represent the engineer, the merchant and the farmer—all panning for gold. Youth and its dreams are represented by a serious-minded boy (the model in this case was photographer Peter Stackpole) holding an aeroplane, representing the infant Industry.

The oil and shipping industries are illustrated above Califia's shoulders, and the ceiling depicts electrical achievement among the sun and billowy clouds.

Shortly after completing “Allegory of California,” Rivera began work on “The Making of a Fresco Showing the Building of a City.” This mural is located in the Diego Rivera Gallery of the San Francisco Art Institute, located at 800 Chestnut Street between Leavenworth and Jones Streets. The most accessible of the three Rivera murals in San Francisco, the gallery is open daily from 8 am to 9 pm daily.

Originally painted in 1940 for the Golden Gate International Exposition, Rivera’s “Pan American Unity” mural depicts the unity of the North and the South on this continent, according to Rivera. “Pan American Unity” is now housed in the Diego Rivera Theatre at San Francisco City College. Viewing times change by semester, and current hours can be found at riveramural.com.

With multiple rooms available for 2 to 220 guests, The City Club of San Francisco is as intimate as it is private. The San Francisco networking event, wedding and private party venue is located on three floors of the historic Stock Exchange Tower overlooking the San Francisco Financial District at 155 Sansome Street between Pine and Bush.

For more information about “Allegory of California” or any of the City Club of San Francisco’s services, please call (415) 675-1549 or visit cityclubsf.com online.

About The City Club of San Francisco
The City Club of San Francisco is a private club and party venue that plays host to elegant San Francisco corporate events and personal gatherings. The City Club specializes in undeniably San Francisco wedding receptions, rehearsal dinners, bridal and baby showers, corporate events and meetings, awards dinners, seminars, workshops, retirement parties, anniversary parties, birthday parties, Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, alumni receptions, bereavement packages, social galas, holiday parties and fundraisers.

In addition to its own world famous art and architecture, The City Club actively promotes the art and culture of San Francisco through collaboration with premier arts and cultural organizations to bring unique programs to the Club and its membership.

City Club members include business, government and community leaders who are actively involved in San Francisco and Bay Area civic affairs. One of the ways that The Club actively supports these activities is by providing a public forum to civic and business leaders to discuss events effecting The City and its people.

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