Wednesday I saw a considerable amount of the murals of Diego Rivera, maybe a little too much of a good thing. The murals, at the time they were painted, represented a democratization of art, putting the art on public walls where everyone could enjoy it. Two government buildings with many of their walls covered in Rivera murals are the Secretaria Education Publica (SED) – which is the Department of Public Education – and the Palacio Nacional.
We had a wonderful tour of the SED Building. The current building has been a customs house, a convent and a school for teachers. In the 1920’s the building was remodeled and the then secretary of education hired many artists, including Diego Rivera, to enhance the building. Of the three levels of a building that covers three city blocks, very little of any hallway is without a mural. After several hours exploring the SED, we walked to the Palacio Nacional for more Rivera.
Originally home of Hernán Cortes, the Palacio Nacional has also housed several Spanish viceroys, and other leaders of Mexico. Now it houses government offices. Some of Rivera’s most famous murals are here. Filled with tiny details and symbolism our guide spent over two hours explaining what we were seeing. My brain began to hurt as much as my feet. He spent almost an hour just on the one in the stairway. It was all very impressive and overwhelming. It’s not really my thing but I’m very glad to have seen it all.