By Ovidio Castro Medina
Bogota, Apr 18 (EFE).- Colombian painter and sculptor Fernando Botero, one of the most important artists of the 20th century, plans to celebrate his 90th birthday surrounded by family in the northern Italian town of Pietrasanta and doing what he now loves the most: painting watercolors.
Though on the verge of entering his ninth decade of life, this native of Medellin, Colombia, who is known for his depictions of people and figures in large, exaggerated volume still is engaged in the creative process and shows no signs of slowing down.
One of his sons, Fernando Botero Zea, told Efe from Mexico that the homages being paid to the “Maestro” both in Colombia and abroad are in recognition of a nearly 75-year career spent in tireless pursuit of “the highest level possible in the field of art.”
“He’s very happy with the celebrations that (are being held in his honor) in Medellin and in other cities of the world. He’s very honored by the affection and admiration of so many people,” Botero Zea said.
He added that he and his brother and sister will celebrate their father’s birthday together on Tuesday, noting that the artist has been careful to avoid contracting Covid-19 and so has mainly stayed in contact with them by phone.
Botero’s paintings, sculptures and drawings have been showcased in exhibits worldwide and are widely coveted by collectors.
On March 11, for example, his sculpture titled “Hombre a caballo” (Man on a Horse) sold for $4.3 million at Christie’s auction house in New York, a record sum paid for one of the artist’s works.
Art historian and independent curator Christian Padilla told Efe that Botero has made varied contributions to Latin American art and highlighted the different themes he has addressed, such as the “monumentality of the mestizo man, of the indigenous man.”
“Botero, in that sense, has the importance of building on ideas that emerged from a political dimension, a cultural dimension, a nationalist idea to be defined, identified, and generating differences between what was the Western, European man and the American man,” the curator said.
Padilla, who this year lectured on Botero at the Autonomous University of Nuevo Leon near Monterrey, Mexico, added that the works of the Maestro “have always been centered on Latin American life and therefore his work also takes on aspects that are very common to our countries.”
“In the 1960s, Botero already was making very critical, stinging comments about dictatorships,” the expert said. “And that’s why some images that seem merely humorous and upbeat – like for example ‘La familia presidencial’ (Presidential Family) – really become a way of ridiculing power in Latin America.”
Botero not only is remarkable for his artistic output but also for his donations to museums and other institutions in Colombia and abroad.
One of his most significant donations was made in 1998 to Colombia’s Banco de la Republica: nearly 210 works (including 123 of his own creation) that make up the collection of Bogota’s Botero Museum, an institution that receives hundreds of thousands of visitors annually.
“I’m absolutely convinced that the sum total of all the efforts of all the governments of Colombia of the 20th century cannot compare with what Botero has done for the culture of his country in (a matter of) decades,” Padilla said.
In that regard, he recalled the 23 Botero sculptures on display in Botero Plaza in downtown Medellin, a group of works that have helped improve the quality of public space in that city and people’s relationship to art.
Some of Botero’s most notable paintings include “Ecce Homo,” “Head of Christ,” “Mona Lisa, Age Twelve,” “Woman with Mirror,” “The Letter,” “Celestina,” “The Night” and “Walk on the Hill.”
His most famous sculptures include “The Hand,” “Torso,” “Bird,” “Roman Soldier,” “Maternity” and “Horse.”