Settlement Reached for ‘Multicultural’ Mural

UPDATED: Downtown mural to indeed come down, original artist to create scale panel version

The state Department of Cultural Affairs has reached a settlement with artist Gilberto Guzman to resolve a long-running dispute over the “Multicultural” mural on the side of the soon-to-be Vladem Contemporary wing of the New Mexico Museum of Art, according to department spokesman Daniel Zillman.

On Friday, a US District Court judge agreed to dismiss a lawsuit Guzman filed in March against the state with prejudice—meaning it cannot be refiled. The judge signed an order noting the parties had agreed to settle at a meeting on Aug. 17.

The cultural affairs department “has decided that the Multicultural Mural will not remain and therefore will be stuccoed over,” the statement from Zillman says. “However, together, we affirm to the community our respect for art, culture, history, and each other, while looking forward to honoring the mural and building a contemporary museum of art for the citizens of New Mexico.”

Guzman filed the suit in the aftermath of a protracted back-and-forth between the artist and the state over whether the mural—created by Guzman with artists Frederico Vigil and Zara Kriegstein, among others in 1980—would be stuccoed over to make way for the Vladem wing following a $4 million donation from businessman Bob Vladem and his wife Ellen in 2018.

In January of 2020, Guzman told SFR that he had a lifetime contract for upkeep and maintenance from the New Mexico Department of Finance and Administration’s Property Control Division (the entity that owned the building before cultural affairs), and that he performed such tasks at least once in the 1990s. At the time, Guzman said, he would have been willing to oversee further restoration.

The artist Gilberto Guzman stands holding a small printout version of his mural "Multicultural."

The state, however, balked, with then-acting Executive Director of the New Mexico Museum of Arts Michelle Gallagher-Roberts telling SFR that New Mexico weather is “really hard on outdoor artwork.” Guzman was additionally offered several alternatives to restoration, including high-quality projection and a recreation of the mural on panel.

He rejected both ideas, but today’s settlement says he has “agreed to create a scale painting on panels of ‘Multicultural’ for permanent display inside the lobby of the New Mexico Museum of Art Vladem Contemporary, where it will be fully accessible without the price of admission.”

Construction on the forthcoming Vladem Contemporary began in February with the “Multicultural” mural being covered by a tarp since then. Today, much of the building’s interior has been gutted, but the wall with the mural still stands. DCA did not provide a timeline for when it will be stuccoed over.

Further, the state has agreed to pay Guzman $32,000 as part of the settlement, as well as a $10,000 commission fee for the scale panel version of the mural, plus up to $10,000 for the associated materials and labor needed for its creation.

Guzman did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent through a representative.

Letters to the Editor

Mail letters to PO Box 4910 Santa Fe, NM 87502 or email them to editor[at] Letters (no more than 200 words) should refer to specific articles in the Reporter. Letters will be edited for space and clarity.

We also welcome you to follow SFR on social media (on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) and comment there. You can also email specific staff members from our contact page.