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Polyforum Cultural Siqueiros



Strolling down Avenida Insurgentes Sur in Mexico City, traffic fumes waft through the forest of modern buildings. Just past the World Trade Center, there’s a wall of junkyard materials: worn brakes, rusted rebars and what-not set in ochre concrete. This “sculpture” seems incredibly out of place in this wealthier section of the metropolis.


Hidden behind this sculpture-wall is a twelve-sided building, the Polyforum Cultural Siqueiros. Seen from overhead, it appears to be a giant turtle nesting in the Colonia Nápoles neighborhood. The building is Mexican muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros’ masterpiece. Inside and out, there are 8,700 square meters of wall decoration, variously described as mosaics, murals or frescoes. But the technique Siqueiros used is beyond the usual. Expanding on his concept of three-dimensional murals, these works are composed of paint, acrylic and metal on asbestos and concrete. It took six years for Siqueiros and a team of assistants to complete this masterpiece. The Polyforum was inaugurated in December 1971.


On the outside, each of the twelve panels has mosaics fusing ideas of nature and humanity, and is thematically related to the mural in El Foro Universal, the main events room. El Foro Universal is beneath an oval-shaped dome. Here is “The March of Humanity.¨ Covering over 2,400 square meters, it is the world’s largest mural.


Seven panels, 24 compositions in all, illustrate the March of Humanity. At one end of the Foro is a man, representing creation, domination and the use of science. At the other end is a woman, representing peace, culture and harmony; the future society. Each holds hands outward, reaching toward one another. On the vault overhead are an eagle, a red star, a white star and astronauts.


The other four panels show the natural world, and the procession of humanity—men, women and children—Pima and Yaqui natives, mestizos and blacks—workers, leaders and demagogues. All show where we have been, and to where we can go, what we can achieve. Parts of the mural are three-dimensional; the lynched black man emerges from the flat space, heaving in his pain.


A sound and light show is offered on Saturdays and Sundays, narrated by Siqueiros himself. The platform where spectators are seated rotates, while each section is highlighted and described with musical accompaniment.


El Foro Universal hosts all types of social, political and cultural events. The Polyforum complex also houses two art galleries with exhibits by international artists, an on-site museum, artisan shop, bookstore, theater, and restaurant-piano bar.


If you’re only spending a few days in Mexico City, it’s worth going down the Avenida Insurgentes Sur, to the corner of Calle Filadelfia. There, nesting like a turtle, is one of the architectural and artistic surprises of 20th century Mexico City: the Polyforum Cultural Siqueiros.

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