As much as I like and admire Botero’s work, going to the Botero Museum in Bogota was a little disconcerting for me, and walking through the gallery gave me a feeling of discomfort. It was the closest thing to revisiting my recurring childhood nightmares that I had experienced. Seriously! It was a little creepy.
When I was younger, I could never describe my nightmares as they were quite abstract. To describe them now, in retrospect, it was like my body would swell into disproportion. Typically my hands and fingers bloating would be the beginning of the nightmare and it was really distressing! I would be overcome with panic and terror as other limbs would swell, and for a long time I could not get myself out of them. Botero’s distinct figurative style of overblown portraits and sculptures bought it all back to me.
My parents would have to shake me out of my dream, and even after waking up, the feeling would linger for some time and I would be staring at my fingers, rubbing them and seeing they were normal but feeling them differently. It completely freaked me out and it took a long time to train myself to wake up from the damn things. Eventually I got the hang of it and they became less frequent and eventually disappeared altogether once I was about 14.
But don’t get me wrong – I do love Botero! He affects me! I also had no idea he was such a prolific artist. Botero actually donated 103 of his own works plus 83 of his incredible private collection of modern works by other famous international artists to the people of Colombia. I was pretty dazzled to discover myself in Bogota looking at orignal paintings by French Impressionists Corot, Sisley, Renoir, Monet, and Toulouse-Lautrec in one room and works by surrealist artists Ernst, Dali, Miro, Leger, Braque, and Picasso in another. Also works by expressionist Francis Bacon and modernist Henry Moore. It was almost too much to take in and definitely requires another visit.
The collection is housed in a beautiful old colonial building in the old part of the city. I have here some photos of just a few to give an idea of the size of the place (and the size of Botero’s works) plus an idea of his amazing collection – you can play guessing games as see which other artists you recognise! :-) (I’m posing by the bird as it is a mini version of the one in Singapore on Boat Quay – made me feel a wee bit home sick, lah! – click on the pic to enlarge…)
Now if that was not amazing enough – you should see the exhibition in Medellin – Botero’s home town!! That blew me away too. Oscar took me to the Museum of Antioquia, which is the name of the department (state). It houses many works of art, focusing mostly on Colombian art. Botero has also made a large donation of works to his home town museum. The most incredible being all the sculptures in the La Plaza de Botero. It was wonderful to see life going on around these sculptures. Tourists posing around them, kids climbing on them, old guys leaning against them, street sellers standing in the shade of the statues. I enjoyed strolling around and taking it all in, but of course had to also take a pic or two with a sculpture – it just has to be done… :-) (click on the pic to enlarge)
Botero has done series of paintings with important messages. One large series he exhibited in 2007 focuses on the situation of torture in Abu Graib prison, in Iraq, by American soldiers. It received a lot of attention and he made the decision not to sell any of the 85 paintings and over a 100 sketches. Instead he has donated them to museums. Other important series focus on the violence by the drug cartels in his home country. Many people say his painting of the death of the drug lord Paulo Escobar, helped the nation come to terms with this event and move forward as it was a turning point in the fight against narco-terrorists. The painting (shown in the second slide show) depicts Escobar being shot on a rooftop, when he was trying to flee.