Dispatch from Mexico City: Day One
Hola! Greetings from Mexico City, our next stop on The Olympic City project.
On Day One here, I focused on the Ruta de la Amistad ("Route of Friendship"), a series of 22 large-scale public artworks commissioned for the '68 Olympics from artists around the world, including Alexander Calder, Herbert Bayer, Ángela Gurría and Willi Gutmann. These concrete sculptures line a 10-mile path along a highway which in '68 was south of the city, near where the Olympic Village and massive Estadio Azteca had been constructed. 1968 was a pivotal year in international politics and culture, and these sculptures embody that optimism for the future and the importance of public art.
Before we go any further, watch this incredible video of Raquel Welch dancing in front of some of the sculptures shortly after they were completed! Psychedelic!
The main thing to notice here, besides the dance moves and tin foil bikini, is that there's nothing around those sculptures, they're in the middle of nowhere on a two-lane road. But as Mexico City's population tripled from approximately seven million in 1968 to over 21 million now, that tiny two-lane road looks like this today:
The city has grown around (and very much past) this area, turning it into a traffic-snarled corridor lined with hotels, office buildings, and mega-malls. An elevated highway is also under construction here.
So the situation with these sculptures is in flux, and local and global art conservation groups are attempting to restore and relocate many of the works. Some sites have found corporate underwriters to facilitate this process, such as American Express's sponsorship of Polish artist Grzegorz Kowalski's Reloj Solar:
But many of the works are in extremely poor condition, trapped between buildings, their surfaces and plaques vandalized. Here's Bauhaus master Herbert Bayer's Articulated Wall, one of the pieces Raquel and friends were frolicking in front of:
Bayer has been a personal hero of mine and his work is one of the reasons I became interested in graphic design, so this was pretty depressing. I can only hope the restoration and relocation efforts continue and that all 22 sculptures are saved.
Next up: the Olympic Village and training facilities. Thanks for following along and for supporting the project, and please spread the word.
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