Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Man Who's 'Never Painted a Fat Figure'

Artist Fernando Botero speaks this morning at an event at the Botero Collection museum in Bogotá.
Painter and sculptor Fernando Botero turned 80 today amidst celebrations across Colombia and in Mexico City.

Perhaps this is the year that the world will understand the Big Botero Question: Why does he create voluminous...subjects?

Botero has asserted over and over that his creations aren't really fat. They are, instead, 'voluminous', which may be a distinction without a difference. I've heard the artist say that it's his reality that's distorted, not his subjects. When one radio interviewer asked Botero whether he might one day create skinny subjects as a commentary on malnutrition, he rejected the idea, because his subjects aren't fat to start out with.

Botero has said that his admiration for an Italian Renaissance painter got him started with the voluminous theme. And, in a recent interview in El Tiempo he said that growing up without a father might have motivated the artist to compensate by painting 'masculine' voluminous figures.

Perhaps the mystery will never be solved, which undoubtedly adds to the interest in Botero's work.

Passers-by read a display about Botero's life across the street from the Botero Museum in Bogotá's La Candelaria neighborhood. 

Botero comments about how some compare his work to that of novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Botero says that might be because both come from the same environment. Botero is from Medellin, while Garcia Marquez grew up on Colombia's Caribbean coast region and in Bogotá.

Botero's youth: His father died at age 40, leaving the family in poverty. The artist, who as a teen dreamed of being a bullfighter but lacked the courage, got his start selling painting for two pesos each at bullfights. (How much would one of those bring today?)
Bicyclists beside a fat man on a fat horse, near Bogotá's Central Cemetery. It is the only public Botero sculpture in Bogotá.
A plaque commemorating Botero, a life-long bullfighting fan, in Bogotá's Plaza de Toros Santamaria. 

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours


mauricio forero l said...

In commercial terms he has achieved success. But when it comes to his importance as an artist in terms of how much he has influenced other artist or his mark as an artist, he is a failure. The only mayor museum with his work, is the metropolitan in NY, his work is not represented in the most important museums like The MOMA in NY, The Tate Gallery, not one single important museum in Germany, he has been living in France for many years and, the Georges Ponpidou museum in Paris dos not have any of his work. To be 80 years old and, never had a retrospective in a mayor museum is very sad. Botero never went beyond his fat people and objects, never evolved, he has a very narrow mind when it comes to see and appreciate contemporary art. He is rich but not the most exciting artist.

Miguel said...

Interesting points. But Botero is well-known and loved throughout Colombia and lots of other places. Perhaps in a hundred years, he'll be seen as a landmark figure, particularly if the ongoing obesity crisis continues.

I'm afraid that the Tate, MOMA and Ponpidou galleries don't have any of my work either on their walls, so I'd say that it's their judgement that's mistaken.

On the other hand, I've never understood the point of painting 'voluminous' figures. But if people want to pay millions for them, that's their right.

And Botero, genius or not, seems like a good guy.

Thanks as always for your comment.


mauricio forero l said...

You see Mike, that is one of the problems with Botero, that he is not a " good " guy, he is very arrogant and extremely narrow minded in his opinion of contemporary art and other artist. Just take a look at some of his interviews on youtube.

Miguel said...

I'll do that. I had no idea. I've read many interviews of him in newspapers and magazines, in which he seems like a nice guy.