The “Pope of Broadway”—Eloy Torrez’s 32-year-old, 70-foot painting of Latino actor Anthony Quinn in a Christ-like pose—is an icon of Downtown Los Angeles and dominates Broadway, familiar to anyone who passes by. But as the years passed, it become marred with graffiti and grew chipped and faded after exposure to sun and smog.
Community members—spurred by Quinn’s son, Francesco Quinn, who subsequently died in 2011—and Los Angeles City Councilman José Huizar rallied to restore the mural, and Huizar in 2014 helped secure $150,000 for a restoration project in the form of community benefit funds from Greenland USA through its Downtown Los Angeles Metropolis Project.
Torrez was enlisted to begin the restoration in July under the direction of the Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles, along with restoration expert Art Mortimer; the duo worked to finish the restoration this month, and on Tuesday, the result was unveiled in a ceremony emceed by Huizar.
Huizar said in a statement:
“This larger-than-life painting by Eloy Torrez of Anthony Quinn captures the sheer magnitude of his importance to the Latino and greater Los Angeles community. Quinn’s on-screen performances garnered international attention, but it is his personal story as a Mexican immigrant in Los Angeles that deeply resonates with us today. Now, after a comprehensive restoration led by MCLA, Quinn’s figure will overlook the future of Broadway for years to come and is a signature piece for our Bringing Back Broadway initiative.”
Torrez repainted the figure and the flooring, while Mortimer prepped the entire piece and painted all the other elements, Huizar’s office said in a news release. Artist Willie Herron applied an anti-graffiti coating to protect the mural on the side of the former Victor Clothing Co. building.
The Los Angeles Timeslooked back on the mural’s history:
Quinn, who was born in Chihuahua, Mexico, and grew up in East L.A., did a stint as a professional boxer before going on to win two Academy Awards. He won the Oscar for supporting actor in 1953 for his role in the film Viva Zapata! and again in 1957 for his part in the movie Lust for Life.
Torrez painted the actor dancing much the way he did in his 1964 film ‘Zorba the Greek’—arms outstretched in a Christ-like pose. Behind the dancing figure, Torrez painted crosses in windows similar to the nearby Bradbury Building.
You’ll be able to take in the newly restored “Pope of Broadway” this Saturday at the free arts and culture festival Night On Broadway. A mile of Broadway will be closed to traffic, and visitors will be able to view performances and exhibits, as well as six of Broadway’s historic movie palaces.