1996 World Monuments Watch
Early in the twentieth century the post-revolutionary government of Mexico commissioned artists to portray the new social and political ideas of the era. Combining European and indigenous techniques, artists such as Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, and David Alfaro Siqueiros left a wealth of eloquent and historically significant murals that are still on display in public buildings throughout Mexico.
Conserving the works of masters
In 1985 a devastating earthquake struck Mexico City, claiming the lives of thousands and significantly damaging the city's rich architectural and artistic heritage. In the aftermath, when the city was in the process of rebuilding itself, WMF collaborated in a program focused on important modern murals that had been created for churches, public spaces, and government buildings during the 1920s and 1930s, but were seriously damaged in the earthquake because of the structural failure of backing materials on which the murals were painted. WMF sponsored the restoration of three cycles, or sets, of murals that are universally acknowledged masterpieces of modern Mexican art: the Secretariat of Public Education, with more than eighty individual frescoes representing the seminal early work of Diego Rivera; the Church of Jesús Nazareno, where José Clemente Orozco's highly original and experimental works suffered extensive losses of paint; and the murals of Diego Rivera's mature period at the Autonomous University of Chapingo, located outside Mexico City near Texcoco.
Due to Mexico’s position along an active fault line, each of these buildings is continually subjected to earthquakes. Tremors and settling cause cracks, damaging the murals and allowing water penetration, leading to further destruction. The Modern Mural Paintings were included on the 1996 Watch to call attention to the constant risk these key cultural assets face without the necessary foundation reinforcements. WMF then supported the documentation and conservation of José Clemente Orozco’s work “El Apocalipsis,” located in the Church of Jesus Nazareno in Mexico City. The mural, created between 1942 and 1944 and left unfinished, is considered by many to be Orozco’s most complex work.