• Press release
  • |
  • New York
  • |
  • For immediate release
  • |
  • 8 March 2018

RELEASE: Christie's announces Diego Rivera's "The Rivals" as a highlight in the Peggy and David Rockefeller Collection


First time to market and the most important Rivera offered at auction in decades

Commissioned by Abby Aldrich Rockefeller; the work has never left the Rockefeller family

Included in Rivera’s first solo exhibition at MoMA in 1931 and rarely exhibited since 1937

Completed aboard ship that transported Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo to New York

Marked the beginning of Rivera’s relationship with the Rockefeller family


New York—Christie’s announces the masterpiece by Diego Rivera, The Rivals (estimate: $5-7million), as a highlight of the Collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller, included in the May 2018 auction. The work will be featured in the exhibition of collection highlights at Christie’s Los Angeles from April 6-12, which is part of the global tour presented by private aviation company VistaJet. The full collection preview will be held at Christie’s Rockefeller Plaza beginning April 28.
"Virgilio Garza, Head of Latin American Art, Christie’s: "Diego Rivera painted episodes of history, past and present, in panoramic frescos where social, political and economic forces were at play. But it is the easel works that reveal a Rivera less motivated by ideology and more by his love for the common man, sense of place and tradition. The Rivals, inspired by a local festivity from the state of Oaxaca, is masterfully expressed through the interplay of planes and colors, beautifully delineated figures, and shapes reduced to their essence. Not only is this an iconic image presenting one of Rivera’s most
treasured subjects, its provenance is impeccable. The painting is Rivera’s calling card to New York, debuting at his MoMA exhibition in 1931 and rarely exhibited since 1937, this will be the first time for it to appear at auction, making it a truly exciting opportunity for the market."
This large-scale oil painting was completed at a milestone moment in the artist’s career. The 1930s represented a significant decade for Rivera, during which time the artist completed his most impressive mural commissions in the United States. The latter solidified his reputation as the leading artist of the Mexican mural movement while helping galvanize the appreciation of Mexican art and culture in the United States. This painting also marked the beginning of his relationship with the Rockefeller family, which would later span generations. Commissioned by Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, The Rivals was completed in a makeshift studio aboard the Morro Castle—the ship that transported Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo to New York ahead of Rivera’s first exhibition at MoMA. The painting was passed down to David and Peggy Rockefeller in 1941 as a wedding gift and has never left the family.
In this dynamic scene, Rivera puts his unparalleled skills as a painter and colorist on full display. The theme, so profoundly Mexican, is infused with the modern use of multiple planes coupled with the artist’s chromatic sensibility. This painting reflects Rivera’s innovative approach to art-making through his ability to translate the subject of a regional narrative using a modern artistic language. The result is Rivera at his best and establishes him as the forerunner for a modern art movement to come directly from the Americas to the world. The vibrant tones and the sinuousness of certain compositional elements embody the style and sensual qualities which would become iconic to the artist.
Diego Rivera would eventually accept the commission to execute the murals (Man at the Crossroads) in the RCA Building at Rockefeller Center, which was under construction. Through his mother’s introduction to the imposing but charismatic Rivera, who visited their family home on 54th Street with his partner Frida Kahlo, the young David Rockefeller became familiar with the Mexican painters’ work and also with José Clemente Orozco, David Alfaro Siqueiros and Rufino Tamayo. He would later recount, "My lifelong appreciation of Mexican art and culture soon spread to all of Latin America."
David Rockefeller attributed his interest in Latin America and Latin American art to two people – his mother, Abby, and his older brother, Nelson A. Rockefeller. Abby taught all her children to respect and appreciate the art of all times and all places. Nelson absorbed that lesson and applied it powerfully in Latin America, where he played a critically significant role as both a private businessman and American diplomat from the late 1930s to the mid- 1950s. Peggy and David spent a second honeymoon in Mexico in early 1946 just after David returned from his Army service in Europe before he started work at Chase National Bank; David says, "We especially wanted to see Rivera’s murals...I always found him to be a very sympathetic person, and I liked his painting." The couple embarked on a six-week journey where they explored the country meeting artists and discovering places like San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Manzanillo, Puebla, and Oaxaca.
During their lifetime, David and Peggy Rockefeller were surrounded by extraordinary works both in the privacy of their homes and in David’s office at Chase National Bank. He commissioned, like his mother Abby, major artists to create works for the Chase Manhattan Bank Art Program. His fervent belief in the importance of corporate support for the arts was the impetus for the Chase collection, which today holds over 30,000 works (many by renowned Latin American masters including Fernando Botero and Omar Rayo) in 450 corporate offices around the world.
In addition to their support for the arts, David and Peggy Rockefeller have designated funds from the sale to go to a group of 12 charities, among them the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies at Harvard University; Americas Society and the Council on Foreign Relations, which have active programs throughout Latin America.
Notes for Editors:

The exhibition of the collection will be open starting April 28 with sales to take place from May 7-11 at Christie’s New York.

Designated philanthropies include the American Farmland Trust, Americas Society/Council of the Americas, Council on Foreign Relations, The David Rockefeller Fund, Harvard University, Maine Coast Heritage Trust, Museum of Modern Art, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Rockefeller University, The Stone Barns Restoration Corporation – Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture.

The most valuable collection ever previously offered at auction was the Collection Yves Saint Laurent et

About Christie’s

Founded in 1766, Christie’s is a world-leading art and luxury business. Renowned and trusted for its expert live and online auctions, as well as its bespoke private sales, Christie’s offers a full portfolio of global services to its clients, including art appraisal, art financing, international real estate and education. Christie’s has a physical presence in 46 countries, throughout the Americas, Europe, Middle East, and Asia Pacific, with flagship international sales hubs in New York, London, Hong Kong, Paris and Geneva. It also is the only international auction house authorized to hold sales in mainland China (Shanghai).

Christie’s auctions span more than 80 art and luxury categories, at price points ranging from $200 to over $100 million. In recent years, Christie’s has achieved the world record price for an artwork at auction (Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvador Mundi, 2017), for a single collection sale (the Collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller, 2018), and for a work by a living artist (Jeff Koons’ Rabbit, 2019).

Christie’s Private Sales offers a seamless service for buying and selling art, jewellery and watches outside of the auction calendar, working exclusively with Christie’s specialists at a client’s individual pace.

Recent innovations at Christie’s include the groundbreaking sale of the first NFT for a digital work of art ever offered at a major auction house (Beeple’s Everydays, March 2021), with the unprecedented acceptance of cryptocurrency as a means of payment. As an industry leader in digital innovation, Christie’s also continues to pioneer new technologies that are redefining the business of art, including the creation of viewing and bidding experiences that integrate augmented reality, global livestreaming, buy-now channels, and hybrid sales formats. 

Christie’s is dedicated to advancing responsible culture throughout its business and communities worldwide, including achieving sustainability through net zero carbon emissions by 2030, and actively using its platform in the art world to amplify under-represented voices and support positive change.

Browse, bid, discover, and join us for the best of art and luxury at: or by downloading Christie’s apps. The COVID-related re-opening status of our global locations is available here.