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Getty Conservation Institute Helps Unveil 80-Year-Old Censored Mural

"América Tropical," a controversial mural painted by David Alfaro Siqueiros, one of the great Mexican artists of the 20th century, is on the second story exterior wall of the Italian Hall on Olvera Street near downtown L.A.

The following press release is supplied by the Office of the Mayor of Los Angeles: 

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Councilmember Jose Huizar, Getty Trust CEO Jim Cuno and Getty Conservation Institute Director Tim Whalen unveiled América Tropical this week, the only surviving public mural by David Alfaro Siqueiros in the United States still in its original location.

The influential artwork opened to the public exactly 80 years to the day - this Tuesday - after it was first pained by Siqueiros. The mural – which was censored and whitewashed soon after its original unveiling -- has been conserved through an ongoing public-private partnership between the City of Los Angeles and the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI). 

David Alfaro Siqueiros, one of the great Mexican artists of the 20th century, painted América Tropical in 1932 on the second story exterior wall of the Italian Hall on Olvera Street, in the area of downtown Los Angeles known as El Pueblo. 

"History can be cruel. But sometimes it has a sense of humor," said Mayor Villaraigosa in a statement. "That the first mayor of Los Angeles of Mexican descent in over 130 years brought this project to fruition and is here today to cut the ribbon…well, I think Siqueiros would have enjoyed the irony of that and had a good chuckle. By conserving and displaying this masterpiece, we are repaying our debt and honoring Siqueiros and his work."

Tim Whalen, director of the Getty Conservation Institute, said the Getty Conservation Institute’s team - through scientific analysis, careful historic research and best practice - has been able to reawaken Siqueiros’s artistry, revive the clarity of the painting’s iconography and reveal the power of its message, all the while honoring the artist’s hand and preserving the history of América Tropical.

"Siqueiros is present," Whalen said. "The ravages of time are present. The complexity of this mural's story is present. That is the power of conservation practiced well. We're so delighted that this important work will once again be available to the public."

The controversial mural was partially whitewashed within a few months and completely painted over within a decade. The work was virtually forgotten until the 1960s, when the rise of the Chicano mural movement brought a renewed interest in América Tropical and Siqueiros.

“While the whitewashing of David Alfaro Siqueiros’ America Tropical was an attempt to censor one man’s art and political speech, it in fact inspired an explosion of art, political consciousness and cultural pride from a whole generation of Angelenos who never had the opportunity to lay eyes on the mural until today," said Councilmember Huizar. "I'm beyond proud to have assisted in this noble cause, and I want to thank the Getty Conservation Institute, Mayor Villaraigosa, Amigos de Siqueiros, and all our supporters for committing to display once again this iconic mural, which is such an important part of Los Angeles’ culture, art, and history.”

The mural boasts a new shelter to protect it from direct exposure to sun and rain. A rooftop platform also has been constructed to allow public viewing. The América Tropical Interpretive Center (ATIC), managed by El Pueblo, is located on the ground floor of the historic Sepulveda House and its exhibits explore the history and techniques used to create América Tropical, the conservation process and the artistic legacy of David Alfaro Siqueiros.

The $9.95 million public-private investment—a $3.95 million commitment from the Getty and $6 million from the City of Los Angeles—is the culmination of years of effort to present and conserve América Tropical.

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