Fernando Botero

b. 1932

Internationally renowned artist, Fernando Botero (b.1932 Medellin, Colombia) is one of the most important and celebrated Latin American artists working today. Monumental sculptures by Botero have been exhibited and are installed in public spaces worldwide. His work is held in numerous museum collections including The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC; The Israel Museum, Jerusalem; Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art, Japan; and the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Caracas, Venezuela.


Botero is born in Medellín, Colombia, in 1932, to a family of modest means. His uncle enrols him in a school for bullfighters at the age of twelve, but Botero is primarily interested in drawing and begins to paint at an early age, first still-life watercolours and then oil paintings depicting figures inspired by the people of the vibrant, colourful city of Medellín.


In 1951, aged nineteen, Botero moves to Bogotá where he meets members of the Colombian avant-garde. His first solo exhibition is held at Galería Leo Matiz and he is awarded second place at the 9th Salón Nacional de Artistas. He uses the prize money to travel to Europe in 1952; first to Spain, Barcelona and then to Madrid, where he studies at the Real Academia de Bellas Artes in San Fernando and spends time at the Museo del Prado, making copies of works by Old Master painters such as Tintoretto, Titian, Goya and Velázquez. In 1953, Botero enrols at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Florence, Italy. There he is a student under Roberto Longhi, a scholar of the work of Caravaggio and early Renaissance painter, Piero della Francesca. Botero studies the technique of fresco painting and tours Italy on his motorcycle; the frescoes he sees, in particular by della Francesca and 13th century Italian artist, Giotto, have a profound impact on his work.


Botero moves to Mexico City in 1955 and encounters first-hand the work of the Mexican muralists, Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros and José Clemente Orozco. He is influenced by the monumental scale and moral imperative of their social realist murals. This association encourages the enlargement of his painted forms and Botero paints 'Still Life with Mandolin' (1956) in the oversized manner that distinguishes his mature style. He exhibits at the Venice Biennale for the first time in 1958 and in 1959 Botero represents Colombia at the 5th Bienal de São Paulo, Brazil.


Botero settles in New York City in 1960. He wins the Guggenheim National Prize for Columbia and in 1963 begins to experiment with sculpture, using acrylic paste and sawdust. He moves to Paris in 1973 and it is here that he casts his first bronze sculptures. Major retrospectives are held at the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, in 1975, and the following year at the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Caracas, Venezuela. In 1979, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C. presents Botero's first American retrospective exhibition.  


In 1980, Botero purchases a house in Italy, in the Tuscan town of Pietrasanta, widely known for the marble quarries in nearby Carrara.


A large retrospective exhibition is held at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, in 1987. The same year, one of Botero's monumental cat sculptures is purchased by Barcelona City Council. It is installed temporarily in various sites across the city until it is permanently placed in the Rambla del Raval in 2003.


A large, open-air exhibition of monumental sculptures is held in 1991 at the Forte Belvedere in Florence. In 1992, thirty monumental sculptures are exhibited along the Champs-Elysées in Paris and Botero participates at the Venice Biennale. In Spain, a monumental horse sculpture is installed in Terminal 2 of Barcelona Airport.


In 1993, Botero in New York features fourteen monumental sculptures along New York City's Park Avenue, from 54th to 61st Streets, with two additional sculptures located on the Doris C. Freedman Plaza. The following year, sculpture exhibition Botero in Chicago is hosted by the City of Chicago in Grant Park and in Madrid monumental works are exhibited on the Paseo de Recoletos.


Botero makes an important donation to the Museo de Arte del Banco de la República, Bogotá, and the Museo de Antioquia in Medellín in 2000. Consisting of his own work and numerous works from his private collection by important 19th and 20th century artists, including Degas, Renoir, Picasso, Matisse, Miró, Giacometti and Calder, the gift forms the foundation of the Museo Botero. Twenty-three sculptures are placed in the Plaza de Las Esculturas, known as Plaza Botero, in front of the Museo de Antioquia.


In 2007, The Baroque World of Fernando Botero exhibition opens at the Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec, Canada. This exhibition will tour to venues across North America until 2011. From September to November, fifteen sculptures are on display at the Lustgarten in Berlin and, in conjunction, a horse sculpture is exhibited in front of the Brandenburg Gate.


Botero receives the Lifetime Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture award from the International Sculpture Centre in 2012. Retrospective exhibitions are held at the Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City, and the Museo de Bellas Artes, Bilbao.


In November 2015, a major retrospective opens at the National Museum of China in Beijing. It is the first exhibition of Botero's work in mainland China. The exhibition tours to the China Art Museum in Shanghai with the addition of nine monumental sculptures and this is followed by an installation of sculpture along the Hong Kong Central Harbourfront.


In the autumn of 2018, Botero is celebrated in Colombia with a solo exhibition, The Young Teacher. Botero, Early Work (1948-1963), held at the Museo Nacional de Colombia in Bogotá.


Fernando Botero lives and works between Paris, Monaco, New York and Tuscany.


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