The History of the 30 Rock Murals: Josep Maria Sert et al.
I wanted to visit the monumental GE Building, aka 30 Rock, to pay homage to Saturday Night Live—a source of comedy and writing inspiration since I was eight years old. It was truly a pilgrimage. However, I was caught off guard by the towering art deco architecture of the exterior, and the murals on the interior walls, depicting characters of the depression, oppression, and struggle, helping one another toward a future of promising technology, equality, and positive growth. Abraham Lincoln, Gandhi, and Ralph Emerson are represented helping within the mural, which wraps around the square columns of the lobby and ceiling.
I didn’t know until I decided to dig into the history of these murals that both Matisse and Picasso were desired artists for the interior murals, but in 1932 Diego Rivera was hired to paint the interior. Rivera’s mural was painted over because he refused to alter the portion of his work that celebrated Lenin. The Rockefellers then decided to commission Spanish-Catalan muralist Josep Maria Sert (sometimes referred to as Jose)—a friend of Salvador Dalí. You can find work by Sert in the League of Nations in Geneva, the Waldorf Astoria New York (depicting a marriage described in Don Quixote), and Hotel de Ville in Paris. The Cathedral of Vic in Catalonia, along with Sert’s religious murals (similarly executed in the black and gold of the 30 Rock lobby), was destroyed in 1936.
Luckily, you can still view his work in New York at 30 Rock, free of charge.