Conservation Mexico

Fears for major Mexican murals

Owners close cultural centre as group appeals to senate to save the works

Siqueiros made the works in the 1970s

Concern is growing for one of the world’s largest murals after the closure of the privately owned cultural centre in Mexico City that houses the cycle, by the Mexican artist David Alfaro Siqueiros. The owners of the 1970s murals say: “After more than four decades maintaining [the works] properly, the situation is unsustainable.” They are looking for investors to create a trust to restore the murals “in a sustainable manner over the next 50 years”.

Siqueiros (1896-1974), who led the revolutionary muralist movement with Diego Rivera and José Clemente Orozco, is considered to be one of the most important muralists of his generation. The scale (8,000 sq. m), ambition and technical achievement of “Polyforum Siqueiros” make it one of his most important works.

The centre closed last November for an investigation into the condition of the murals, led by a private company. The findings have not been made public, but Alfredo Suárez, who owns the centre, says that the interior mural, which features Siqueiros’s masterpiece The March of Humanity on Earth and Toward the Cosmos, is in good condition. In 1995, conservators restored the five exterior panels; funds are now needed to restore the remaining seven. The centre estimates that the work will cost around $3m.

“The main problem is that Siqueiros experimented with new types of paint,” Suárez says. In this case, the artist used pyroxylin, “which was believed to offer very strong protection against the elements, but which we now know is not the case”. The works are also being damaged by the acid rain produced by one of the world’s most populated cities.

Marcelo Fabián Monjes, who founded the non-profit organisation Fundación Conciencia y Dignidad, has criticised Suárez for considering selling the land to build a commercial space. Suárez says that this allegation is “opportunist and alarmist”. The foundation is among a group of non-profits that are lobbying the Mexican senate to save the centre by seeking to have it designated as a Unesco World Heritage Site.

Any conservation work on the murals must be approved by Mexico’s National Institute of Fine Arts and Literature, which says that they are “not in danger of being lost”. Suárez says that the centre is not asking for money from the state. “We have never received a cent from any private institution or the government,” he says.

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