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Fernando Botero: A Journey through Seven Decades of Artistic Legacy

18 October, 2023

Fernando Botero, the renowned Colombian artist, is an iconic figure in the world of contemporary art. His career, spanning over seven decades, is marked by extraordinary artistic evolution and an unmistakable style. Throughout his life, Botero left a lasting imprint on the history of art, characterized by his voluptuous figures, vibrant color palette, and deep exploration of Latin American culture.

In this journey through his life and work, we will explore the most significant moments that shaped his artistic legacy and his impact on the global art scene.

Fernando Botero was born on April 19, 1932. It was only in 1948 that he created his first watercolors and became an illustrator for the newspaper El Colombiano. In the same year, he participated in his first collective exhibition of Antioquian painters.

Commemorative Edition of El Colombiano Newspaper Celebrating the Master’s 90th Anniversary with Some of His Vintage Illustrations for the Journal

In 1952, he won the second prize at the IX National Artists Salon with the painting “Frente al mar” (“Facing the Sea”). With the awarded prize, he embarked on a journey to Europe to train as a painter for three years, studying under the most important artists in history.

In 1958, he won the IX National Salon of Colombian Artists with the painting “Homenaje a Mantegna” (“Homage to Mantegna”), and the following year, along with important Colombian painters, represented Colombia at the V São Paulo Biennial.

In 1960, he won the Guggenheim International Prize with the painting “Arzodiablomaquia” (1960). He traveled to New York with $200 and settled there. A year later, the MoMA acquired his first work: “Monalisa a los 12 años” (“Monalisa at 12”).

In 1962, he held an individual exhibition at The Contemporaries gallery in New York, and in 1964, at the Museum of Modern Art in Bogotá.

In 1966, he exhibited individually in Europe for the first time in Baden, Germany, and the following year, the MoMA acquired his second painting: “Familia Presidencial” (“Presidential Family”).

In 1976, a retrospective exhibition of his work was held at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Caracas.

In 1977, he exhibited his sculptures for the first time at the Grand Palais in Paris. In the same year, he inaugurated the “Pedrito Botero” room at the Museum of Antioquia with a donation of 16 works, as a tribute to his son who died in 1974 in an accident.

“The Painting ‘Pedrito on Horseback’ is the Master’s Tribute to His Son.”

In 1984, he donated a sculpture room to the Museum of Antioquia with 16 works in Medellín and to the National Library of Colombia in Bogotá with 18 works.

In 1992, he exhibited 32 of his monumental sculptures on the Champs-Élysées in Paris with an attendance of 5 million people, being the only artist to exhibit there. At the same time, 120 of his oils from the series “La corrida” were presented at the Grand Palais, and additionally, the Didier Imbert Gallery exhibited around 50 works on paper and several small sculptures.

The following year, he held an exhibition of monumental sculptures on Fifth Avenue in New York.

In 2000, he donated 208 works of his own and from his collection of international artists to the Banco de la República in Bogotá, thus creating the Botero Museum, as well as 108 works to the Museum of Antioquia along with 23 large-format sculptures that inaugurated the Botero Plaza in Medellín. This made Botero the main driving force behind the creation of the first two museums in Colombia.

In 2004, he held an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in Singapore.

In 2012, the largest exhibition by number of works of the painter was held at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City with a total of 177 pieces. In the same year, he donated the 61 works that make up the series “El Viacrucis” to the Museum of Antioquia, which remained there until 2023 when they will be transferred to Milan in November.

Between 2015 and 2016, an anthological exhibition of his work was held at the National Museum of China in Beijing and at the China Art Museum in Shanghai, being the first living artist to exhibit at the Beijing Museum.

In 2017, in France, the important exhibition “Botero dialog avec Picasso” was inaugurated, a exhibition that brought together the works of two great masters of modern art.

In 2022, he broke his own record as the most expensive living Latin American artist with his sculpture “Hombre a Caballo” (“Man on Horseback”), which was sold at Christie’s for 4.3 million dollars.

That same year, he celebrated his 90th birthday with exhibitions in Madrid, Medellín, Bam Mons Belgium, Bogotá, and other cities.

He passed away on September 15, 2023, at his residence in Monaco, at the age of 91.

It is estimated that he held over 70 individual exhibitions in museums around the world and thousands of collective exhibitions.”

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