David Alfaro Siqueiros, one of the greatest Mexican artists, a controversial man as Antonio Rodríguez states, “stands out for three very well-defined traits: one, of a political nature, another one of a doctrinaire nature, and the third one, of an aesthetic-technique nature“.
Devoted, until death, to the political, union and revolutionary struggles; he was concerned to formulate theories and to establish doctrines which he defended all possible ways, especially in controversies and statements that in 1929 led him to spend his first long season in jail. He traveled to the United States and South America where he produced a large number of mural works that he complemented invariably with always controversial and polemic statements.
Dedicated to painting and muralism, involved in international political matters such as the death of Trotsky, Siqueiros is imprisoned and expatriated to Chile where he resides until 1945, when he returns to Mexico and produces, among others. The murals of Palacio de Bellas Artes and the unfinished work of the customs of Santo Domingo. Unable to submit himself to established work programs, with the typical rage of a genius, the painter of Cuauhtemoc contra el mito and La revolución contra la dictadura porfiriana leaves many unfinished works and starts in his workshop-exile in Cuernavaca, after four years of captivity, the murals for the Polyforum Cultural Siqueiros. His death, in 1974, ends a life full of originality, transcendence, passion and an impressive creativity in Mexican mural, cultural and political painting.
The contact with the Misrachi family is given -Adriana Alfaro, Siqueiros’ daughter tells us- since I was very young; the strongest relationship is, of course, with my father and with all the artists of the time. My father mentioned during the beginning of the century, in the thirties, one of Alberto Misrachi’s uncles had come to start a publishing business, a publishing house and a bookstore; and that man who was also named Alberto had one of his nephews brought from his land, which I think was Greece. Of course, they came in a business plan, like any foreigner, to do business, but their business was taking a very special direction, precisely for the time, which is when the great muralism movement really began in México.
My father said that muralism was born from the Mexican Revolution, when the young people of that time, within a Porfirian regime, had not really had contact with their land, their country or their roots, and that for the first time, those young people began to get to know their land, their geography, their customs and their people; they said that it was when they really started to put their feet on the ground -on their land-.
Muralism is a phenomenon that has always existed, since the cavemen, with periods such as the Renaissance in which there was a renovation in arts. And in this way, in America, muralism is reborn- reborn is the correct word- with a determining historical and social importance.
After my father’s exile, two years in Chile and another one in Cuba, during the dictator Batista’s time, we returned to Mexico, and one of my first memories is the famous Misrachi bookstore in front of the Fine Arts Palace. Since there were no galleries, there was a very direct contact with this bookstore, with artists and writers: Clemente Orozco, Diego Rivera, my father and other painters of the time. At that time there were no galleries; Mexico had not faced this kind of things and it was the Misrachi who started to sell the drawings of the muralists and to make art books.
Tourists came from the United States to the bookstore on Juarez Avenue and of course: “Don Alberto, could you sell one of my drawings?”. That’s how they started. In one of the cabinets, next to the books, it was a custom to put a picture of my father, Diego or any other artist. And they were sold as a book was sold. Then, from the idea of making a gallery like the one Ines Amor had in the street of Milan arose; those were really the only important centers where the artists could exhibit and sell their work; hence the importance of the name Misrachi for artists of that time and a way of selling art that was perfected by the young Alberto over the years.
My father, that giant artist, of muralism, was also a human being. At the beginning of 1973 he began to feel sick; he had just finished painting the Polyforum and came to Mexico, from Cuernavaca, to have some medical tests. Cancer had started three or four years before but he did not know it. When he was told that some sample would be taken from his spine, he got scared, because deep inside he was a child that did not want to, that could not dare, go to the doctor. The only person he had enough confidence with to speak about his worries and to ask for money was Alberto; with him he signed promissory notes. Then he made the portrait of Allegra which was many years in the living room of his house.
I remember Alberto was always an analytical man, concerned about the quality of art. That was what he always had, a great concern for art and a great will to work and organize
In painting as in everything, there are two types of lines, One in which there is always business involved; the other one, that one of art itself, that one of culture. But he had them perfectly separate; they were related, but without one affecting the other. My father exhibited in two galleries; in Alberto’s and in Inés Amor’s, always with great respect and with a really friendly relationship. That’s where Alberto comes in, a charming man of great humane quality that makes my father not see the sale of his works exclusively as business but as a contribution, an enrichment, along with the publications and the art books, to the culture of Mexico.
Geller, Luis. El Alberto Misrachi Galerista: Una vida dedicada a promover el arte de México. México: Editorial Sylvia Misrachi, 1998.