Across the street from the landmark Bradbury Building in downtown Los Angeles, California is the Pope of Broadway, a 70-foot mural of legendary Mexican-born actor Anthony Quinn. Painted by Eloy Torrez on the Victor Clothing Building in 1984, the mural depicts Quinn dancing in front of the Bradbury Building. Quinn’s pose evokes his Oscar-nominated performance as the title character in Zorba the Greek.
For muralist Eloy Torrez, it was the face that really got to him.
His beloved mural had been chipping and fading in the sun for years. But when Quinn’s painted face began to peel off the wall, that’s when the sight of his 1985 painting became truly painful for Torrez.
So on January 24, 2017, Torrez joined art conservationists and city officials beneath the 70-foot-tall artwork on the side of the former Victor Clothing Co. building to celebrate its full restoration, which was done Torrez himself.
“To me, Anthony Quinn represents Los Angeles and its diversity,” Torrez said.
The unveiling of the restored mural occurred in a downtown L.A. — and on a Broadway — much different from the one that existed when the artwork was commissioned three decades ago. Back then, Broadway was the bustling Latino commercial center of Los Angeles, with businesses catering to the region’s booming immigrant population.
Years of gentrification have radically changed Broadway. Today, it’s become a center of the new hip downtown, with many of the old Latino businesses — and Spanish-language movie theaters — replaced by upscale eateries and restored theaters. The venerable Grand Central Market nearby was re-created as a foodie haven.
In some ways, the mural is a link between the new and the old.
Murals are a city’s urban canvas, expressing the history, concerns and aspirations of a community. Though they are susceptible to weather, vandalism and decay, murals are also freely visible and open for all to enjoy. For generations, Los Angeles has been renowned as one of the world’s great mural capitals.
Latino artists and their culture are an integral part of Los Angeles’ mural heritage. You can travel between multicultural neighborhoods and view murals as if they’re on display in the wings of a vast, concrete museum. The Discover LA website features 10 exemplary pieces to discover throughout the city.
Photo of mural before restoration by Laurie Avocado via Flickr.