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In this piece, Febronio Ortega gathered a variety of opinions from the art world. Among them, he recalled Diego Rivera’s description of his visit to the “Museo de Mediocridades” [Museum of Mediocrities]—Rivera’s characterization of the murals painted by Roberto Montenegro at the Colegio de San Pedro y San Pablo. In his opinion, Montenegro had no idea what a mural painting was. He added that what most frightened him were the walls painted by Dr. Atl, which were the first he saw upon his return to Mexico. Ortega said they horrified him. Regarding José Vasconcelos, Rivera felt that, as Minister of Public Education, Vasconcelos was obliged to give work to everyone and was unable to express preferences. Ortega does note, however, that the minister was in fact susceptible to a certain degree of subjectivity thanks to his Orientalist studies, an Eastern interest that is reflected in certain paintings, such as those found in his office and which are admired by nobody except the secretaries. In his opinion, Fermín Revueltas, Jean Charlot, and Cahero are the only ones who have not become entirely bourgeois, and he considers Rivera to be extremely leftist.


Febronio Ortega clarifies that his column in Zig-Zag publishes accurate transcriptions of the statements of his interviewees and, as such, does not represent the opinion of the newspaper’s editor. With this warning in mind, the banter that begins to appear in the newspapers can be appreciated, most especially regarding figures like the Minister of Public Education, José Vasconcelos (1882–1959). By January 10, 1924, the friction between Vasconcelos and Rivera, regarding art and politics alike, was already quite notorious. In the interview Rivera describes the secretaries’ repugnant taste; this comes from the Manifiesto del Sindicato (SOTPE) [Workers, Painters and Sculptors Union Manifesto], which refers to the bad taste of the secretaries who do not understand the avant-garde nature of what is being painted on walls and instead prefer the Eastern-like taste of Vasconcelos. The walls that Dr. Atl “decorated” were later erased by Atl himself.

Esther Acevedo : Dirección de Estudios Históricos, INAH / CURARE A. C.
CURARE, Espacio crítico para las artes, Mexico City, Mexico
Courtesy of El Universal de México, Mexico City, Mexico
Instituto de Investigaciones Bibliográficas : Biblioteca Nacional/Hemeroteca Nacional