Covered up inside San Francisco’s Stock Exchange tower is a precious fortune: Diego Rivera’s 1930–31 Allegory of California fresco. Crossing a two-story flight of stairs between the tenth and eleventh floors, the fresco shows California as a goliath brilliant goddess offering ranch new produce, while gold diggers work underneath her and petroleum processing plants loom not too far off. Rivera’s Allegory is brilliant, however preventative – while Californian laborers, designers, and visionaries continue on ahead, the weight check in the left-hand corner is entering the red zone.
Today it appears to be weird that planner Timothy Pflueger would welcome such a candid pundit of private enterprise as Diego Rivera to paint the painting gracing San Francisco’s Stock Exchange Lunch Club (presently the City Club) – yet after the 1929 US securities exchange crash, Rivera wasn’t the main doubter of unregulated business sectors. The Allegory of California was his first US fresco commission, and it would be a few years before his Rockefeller Center wall painting in New York was criticized as socialist and rejected. Rather, Rivera and his young lady – the pivotal surrealist craftsman Frida Kahlo – were the toast of San Francisco, and began a wall painting development that proceeds here today.