Rethinking the Legacy of Colombia’s Most Famous Living Artist, Fernando Botero
Of the artists who came of age during Colombia’s turbulent 20th century, on view at Opera Gallery in London—or voluminous female nudes, such as those in The Whore House (2009). Botero studied and worked in Europe and has often alluded to the influence of Old Masters like Velázquez and Piero della Francesca, including in his former belief that “[art] doesn’t have the capacity to change anything.”
Botero is something of a Colombian folk hero. The Museo Botero in Bogotá houses his work and private collection; he designed the label for a popular brand of rum. His work is both highly priced at auction and widely collected. Still, critics and contemporary artists have derided him for his attachment to figurative style and positive, or at least placid, portrayal of national life, even at a time when the country and its people were suffering from serious violence and instability. Ten years ago, he reconceived of his theory of art and its purpose, creating a series of works about Colombia’s long and bloody war; his next was about American torture and prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib. (Of this set, the Los Angeles Times wrote, “Botero’s new works may seem as startling as if
Miguel Ángel Rojas, a Colombian conceptual artist, has said, “The new generation of artists has moved away from more overtly political artwork and towards more personal proposals—art that is more related to form, poetics, and the nature of art.” Colombia’s contemporary art world may resist Botero’s influence, but poetic, formal art is, of course, just what Botero has been making all along.