Preserving Mexican murals in S.F.
Art conservation is a meticulous craft that’s usually hidden
from view. Now through April in an exhibit in San Francisco’s M.H.
de Young Memorial Museum, you can watch conservators working on murals
from Teotihuacan–Mexico’s ancient city and ceremonial center.
You’ll see how dirt and minerals, encrusted on the delicate
painted surfaces after at least 13 centuries of burial and decay, are
removed to reveal elaborate images of undulating feathered serpents,
flowering trees, defiant warrior birds, and striding priest deities. In
an adjacent gallery, wall displays and a 10-minute video presentation
explain the process in detail.
The blue, green, black, and ocher murals once adorned the walls of
domestic compounds at Teotihuacan–the first major urban center in what
scholars call Middle America. Crudely removed in the 1960s, more than
70 fragments surfaced in a private collection that was willed to the
museum in 1976. Once conservation work has been completed, half of the
mural fragments will return to Mexico and the rest will remain in the
The museum is in Golden Gate Park. Hours: 10 to 5 Wednesdays
through Sundays. Admission: $2 for adults, 50 cents children 5 through
17 and seniors, free for all on the first Wednesday of each month and 10
to noon Saturdays. For other museum information, call (415) 750-3659.
Photo: Ancient fragments depict warrior bird. Behind glass at
rear, conservators brush and clean painted surfaces