- Associated Press - Friday, December 3, 2010

BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA (AP) - Submerged in obscurity and perilous conditions for most of its nearly 70-year history, a mural by painter David Alfaro Siqueiros, now carefully restored, was inaugurated Friday by the presidents of Mexico and Argentina in a place of honor just steps from the presidential palace.

Moments after Felipe Calderon and Cristina Fernandez honored the work Siqueiros created in 1933, titled “Ejercicio Plastico” or “Plastic Army,” hundreds of people rushed in to see what Siqueiros created in 1933 during his stay in the Argentine capital _ an imaginary underwater world with a type of bubble where sensual feminine figures float in the water.

The mural is now carefully installed as the centerpiece of the newly named Museum of Political Art, in a former customs office just behind the Casa Rosada.

“True art is alive and constructed when the people have access” to it, Fernandez said with Calderon at her side before both leaders left for the Iberoamerican summit in the northeastern coastal city of Mar del Plata. She called the restoration “a debt that Argentina had with its own history and with the Mexican people.”

Fernandez also recommended that people see “The Mural,” a documentary about the work by filmmaker Hector Olivera that also was opening Friday in Buenos Aires.

An active communist, Siqueiros (1896-1974) was a strong advocate of public art. He, Diego Rivera and Miguel Clemente Orozco were among Mexico’s most famous muralists.

Siqueiros painted “Ejercicio Plastico” on the walls, ceiling and floor of a basement in a house outside Buenos Aires that belonged to Natalio Botana, director of the Critica newspaper where Siqueiros was a columnist for more than a year.

The mural was deteriorating due to the lack of interest of later owners of the house, which was ultimately abandoned in the 1980s and about to be demolished. Amid various legal disputes, businessmen and art-restoration experts managed to rescue the work. Divided into seven parts, it was held outdoors in containers for 17 years and was nearly shipped out of the country before the late President Nestor Kirchner declared it part of the country’s historical and artistic patrimony.

“I think the spirit of Siqueiros took care of the mural,” said Ambassador Magdalena Faillace, who handled cultural affairs for Kirchner.