Detroit in the Depression Years Through the Eyes of Frido Kahlo and Diego Rivera


Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo in Detroit will be on view at the Detroit Institute of Arts (5200 Woodward Ave, Detroit) March 15–July 12. The catalogue is published by Yale University Press.


The period between April 1932 and March 1933, when artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo sojourned in Detroit, was a desperate time for the city. The Great Depression had hit so hard that officials cut the Detroit Institute of Arts’ (DIA) budget to just a tenth of what it had been before; there was even talk of shutting it down and selling off its collections. “Things were horrible, worse than they were two years ago,” curator Mark Rosenthal told Hyperallergic.

Rivera had arrived to paint his famous Detroit Industry murals at DIA, and despite the Motor City’s woes, was fascinated by what he saw. The Marxist painter worshipped Henry Ford and thought the industrial production exemplified by the River Rouge automobile factory could bring about utopia. The 27 panels he created are still widely considered one the 20th century’s greatest artistic reflections on technology.


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