Polyforum Cultural Siqueiros
The Polyforum Cultural Siqueiros is a cultural, political and social facility located in Mexico City as part of the World Trade Center Mexico City. It was designed and decorated by David Alfaro Siqueiros in the 1960s and hosts the largest mural work in the world called “La Marcha de la Humanidad.” The building has a theatre, galleries and more, but the main focus is the Foro Universal, which contains the interior portion of Siqueiros mural work. Visitors may see the seven panels while on a stage that rotates while hearing the voice of the artist narrate.
The Polyforum is a decagon shaped construction with different exhibition spaces that feature David Alfaro Siqueiros’ work. The building is part of a business complex called the World Trade Center Mexico City in the Benito Juárez borough of Mexico City. This complex was designed by architects Joaquín Alvarez, Guillermo Rossel de la Lama and Ramón Mikelajáuregui, and built just outside of Parque de la Lama, but the Polyforum was designed and decorated by Siqueiros, who nicknamed it “El coronelazo.” The exterior is in the form of a diamond and the inside has eight sides. The building with its murals is considered to be an “artistic heritage site” for Mexico, registered by the Centro Nacional de Conservación, Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes y Literatura and Registro del Patrimonio Artístico Mueble. The Polyforum is a multiple event facility dedicated to cultural, political and social events. Its main aspects include a 500-seat theatre, two galleries, offices and the Foro Universal or Universal Forum.
The outside wall was built in 1970 as a way for patron Manuel Suárez to prevent encroachment or destruction of his property. The wall became immediately controversial because although it was built for safety purposes, it obstructed the view of the Polyforum for passersby, thus making it less accessible to the general public. The press allegedly deemed the wall defensive and antisocial, and Siqueiros tried to defend the wall by saying that it was merely an aesthetic extension of the Polyforum itself. Made into a work of art, the inner surface of the wall celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of the Mexican mural movement of which Siqueiros actively participated in with Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, and others. The mural prominently features portraits of Rivera and Orozco, as well as Dr. Atl, a key figure in the start of the mural movement, and graphic artists Guadalupe Posada and Leopoldo Mendez.
The Polyforum's exterior, a 2,750 ft. area, features a twelve-faced sculptural mural painting. Each face depicts a different symbolic concept. The twelve concepts depicted are: Destiny, Ecology, Acrobats, Masses, Decalog, Christ, Indigenous Peoples, Dance, Mythology, Mingling of Races, Music, and Atom. The exterior work is meant to serve as a preview of the interior mural, to entice visitors to enter the building, and to make visitors contemplate the complex meanings of the concepts represented.
The Polyforum was designed as part of a major redevelopment/improvement project for Mexico City entitled Mexico 2000. Because of an increase in Mexico City’s urban population, Mexico 2000 strived to generate income for the city through tourism and services at its decentralized location at Parque de la Lama. In addition to making arts more accessible to people through Siqueiros’ work at the Polyforum, some of the other contributions of Mexico 2000 included underground networks of driveways, closed circuit radio and television broadcasting, a new system of construction called “Tridilosa” that lightened the weight of the building structure as to allow for more rooms to be created, and expedited travel services for tourists coming into the city.
The plaza’s major hotel, “El Hotel de Mexico,” is 730 foot high building that was designed to house a large number of tourists. At the time, the hotel was the tallest reinforced concrete and earthquake-resistant building in the world, and featured 1,512 rooms and suites with a variety of dining options. Equally important to tourism as the Polyforum, “El Hotel de Mexico” was built for both functionality and aesthetic pleasure through its architectural grandeur.
Although the date is rather uncertain, most agree that the initial commission of the Polyforum happened in 1960 before the radical artist Siqueiros was imprisoned for the charges of attacking police, resisting arrest, firing an illegal weapon, and inciting violence. Siqueiros officially accepted the commission from art patron and industrialist Manuel Suárez on September 7, 1964. The first request of Suárez was for a large mural to be housed in Cuernavaca. The location of the mural was then moved to Mexico City in 1966, and now is known as “The March of Humanity.” The location change to Parque de la Lama was part of Suárez’s larger ideas to both draw people away from the urban center and to promote tourism in an effort to boost the suffering Mexican economy.
Creating the Polyforum was a collective act, and required a large team of workers. Several architects, engineers, painters, sculptors, and acoustics experts from all around the world came to work on the massive project. The undertaking was so large that Siqueiros purchased an additional piece of land next to his home and studio in Cuernavaca for his team to complete the project. All of the panels for “The March of Humanity” were created in Cuernavaca, where Rhode Island School of Design alumni Mark Rogovin worked under Siqueiros. Rogovin attests to the fact that he and a friend were the only U.S. natives to be working on the project, as most of the other members were from Japan, Italy, Argentina, and various other locations around the world. According to Rogovin, Siqueiros was constantly at the studio, putting in long days and making sure that the project was being carried out to his standard.The project was initially to be completed for the 1968 Olympic Gamers, but due to political and financial complications, the Polyforum was not finished and inaugurated until December 15, 1971.
Foro Universal and Siqueiros mural
The main feature of the complex is the Foro Universal, which contains Siquiero´s mural called “La Marcha de la Humanidad” (The March of Humanity). The panels on the Foro plus the exterior work measure 8,700m2, the largest mural in the world. The Foro takes up most of the interior space, covered by a vault which measures 900m2 and with 2,400m2 of its walls and ceiling covered by Siquieros’ work. There are seven main panels to the work. Panel 1 is dedicated to man representing the creation, domination and use of science. Panel 2 has three main elements: a volcano, a nahual and a tree. Panel 3 consists of an amate tree, a “leader” and a recently sprouted tree. Panel 4 is called “The Woman” and represents peace, culture and harmony in a future society. Panel 5 contains seven compositions which are named “Primitive man,” “The proletariat woman pregnant,” “The Crow Man,” “The march of the mothers,” “The mix of races,” “The lynched black” and “The Pimas and the Yaquis.” Panel 6 has three main elements of “The demagogue,” “Men, women and children” and “The leader.” Panel 7 is painted on the ceiling and consists of four main elements called “The eagle,” “The red star,” “The astronauts” and “The white star.” Visitors to see the mural can also experience a sound and light show about the work, with narration in the voice of Siqueiros. For this show, the stage can hold up to 1000 people and rotates towards the different sections of the mural.
The building also contains a theatre, two joined galleries and other facilities. The Teatro Manuel Suárez is one of few circular Greek style theatres in the world. This theatre has 500 seats and has hosted a number of works acted by famous actors. This has included works such as “Diary of a Madman” by Nikolai Gogol, performed by actor Carlos Ancira . This was the only theatre in the World Trade Center until the 3,000-seat Centro Pepsi was completed in 2012. The two galleries named after Dr. Atl and Mario Orozco Rivera. The first serves at the site museum with a space of 145m2. Its permanent exhibit consists of photographs and models and sketches related to the painting of the site’s mural. It also contains biographical information in the form of documents and photographs of Manuel Suárez y Suárez, the sponsor of the Polyforum along with that of Siqueiros. The gallery contains a statue of Manuel Suárez y Suárez and personal effects of Siqueiros. The second dedicated to Orozco Rivera measures 169m2 and is dedicated to temporary exhibits of painting, sculpture and photography. One temporary exhibit held in 2011 was called “My Trend Week” designed to display the works of new artistic talent in architecture as well as graphic, industrial and interior design. In 2011, the two galleries were linked and renovated with a modern system of lighting and ultraviolet film on its glass and other elements designed to protect the works shown there. The works are set against white, curved walls with a total exhibition space of just over 300m2. The combined space has been tentatively renamed “Espacio de Arte Emergente” (Emerging Art Space) .
The Polyforum is a private institution which is supported through its activities and through private donations to the Siqueiros Foundation. Its main goal is the promotion of “new values” in the fine arts. The foundation preserves a collection of periodicals, audio, video and photography related to the artist, whose digitalization was begun in 2010. This collection consists of 102,908 documents and images with elements such as correspondence with contemporary intellectuals, writers and politicians, including that from the Siquieros was incarcerated in Lecumberri from 1960 to 1964. It also includes 7,000 postcards from Germany alone, and 10,000 photographs of family and 80,000 texts written about the artist.
Over its first forty years, the building suffered significant deterioration to its structure and its murals. The deterioration of the mural work is due to environmental factors and the materials Siquieros used to create the piece.(restaurant) In 2011, remodeling work was begun on the facility to mark its fortieth anniversary. Some restoration work had been performed in 2011, but lack of funds has prevented completion.
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- Suárez y Suárez, Manuel (1975). Polyforum Cultural Siqueiros: Mexico. México: Poliforum Siqueiros.
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- Riding, Alan (June 20, 1971), "Siqueiros: Ten Years and a Polyforum Later", New York Times: D22
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- Rogovin, Mark (1969). "The March of Humanity: An Expression in Public Art". Rhode Island School of Design Alumni Bulletin 26: 19.
- Folgarait, Leonard (1987). So Far From Heaven: David Alfaro Siqueiros’ The March of Humanity and Mexican Revolutionary Politics. New York: Cambridge University Press. pp. 46–55. ISBN 0521330610.
- "Descripción" (in Spanish). Mexico City: Polyforum Cultural Siqueiros. Retrieved September 2, 2011.
- "El Mural "La Marcha de la Humanidad"" (in Spanish). Mexico City: Polyforum Cultural Siqueiros. Retrieved September 2, 2011.
- "Teatro Manuel Suárez" (in Spanish). Mexico City: Polyforum Cultural Siqueiros. Retrieved September 2, 2011.
- "Galerías del Polyforum" (in Spanish). Mexico City: Polyforum Cultural Siqueiros. Retrieved September 2, 2011.
- "Continuará en 2011 digitalización del Fondo Siqueiros" [The digitalization of the Siqueiros collection will continue into 2011]. Azteca 21 (in Spanish) (Mexico City). January 23, 2011. Retrieved September 2, 2011.