Fernando Botero was one of the most renowned South American artists of the contemporary era. Larissa Guimaraes, International Art Consultant, AstaGuru Auction House explains his continuing appeal.
Offering a vibrant and bold approach to the prevalent themes of Latin American art, Fernando Botero (1932-2023) developed a style which is uniquely his own and at the same time, paid tribute to the voluptuousness of the form in the works of Old masters. Botero passed away on 15th September 2023 at the age of 91, leaving behind an undeniable impact on the world of art history.
Born in Medellín, Colombia, in 1932, Botero was four years old when his father passed away. When he turned 12, Botero’s uncle enrolled him in a school for bullfighters. During this time, the artist continued to pursue his love for drawing and painting, creating impressive watercolour works depicting matadors and bulls. These initial works were sold by a bullfight ticket trader.
At the age of 16, his illustrations were selected to be published in a leading newspaper. The money he received from this went on to fund his studies at the Art Academy of San Fernando, Madrid, in the 1950s. In 1951, he held his first show in Bogotá. And by the time he turned 20, he had won the second prize at Salón Nacional de Artistas. He celebrated this by travelling with a group of other artists through Europe. Old Spanish Masters, Spanish Baroque works, French artists’ works at the Louvre and then studying the Italian Renaissance in Florence massively impacted his oeuvre. Among the many influences, Pablo Picasso and Juan Gris held a special place in his heart. This would lead to him altering forms and exaggerating shapes to arrive at his signature style.
In 1956, during his stay in Mexico, the artist took to executing a painting of a mandolin with a minuscule sound hole, making the mandolin seem much larger and distorted. This led to a breakthrough in his career and forming his unique style, now known as ‘Boterismo’. His figures, he once said, explored the sensuality of form and played with volume. He used this style to reinterpret paintings of Old Masters and depict scenes from Latin streets and everyday life. He was also a satirist, painting portraits of political figures and emphasising various physical features to have the desired impact.
Referring to himself as the ‘most Colombian of Colombian artists’, Botero continued gaining global recognition, bringing further interest in Latin American art. While residing in Paris in the early 1970s, he started sculpting, which then led to large-scale public installations in the 1980s. The Botero Plaza in his hometown of Medellin houses 23 of his impressive sculptures. Currently, his public commissions are on display in cities such as New York, Paris, Barcelona, Jerusalem and Bamber.
Some of his best-known works include the series of works depicting Abu Ghraib prisoners, The Death of Pablo Escobar, which caused an uproar, his interpretation of the Mona Lisa and sculptures such as Eve. Many of his works are housed in important collections such as those of Museo Nacional de Arte Renia Sofía, Madrid, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Botero Museum, Bogotá, and others.
His impressive oeuvre, command of colour and unique handling of form have immortalised him as one of the most prominent figures to emerge from not only Colombia but Latin America as a whole.
In the past, AstaGuru Auction House has offered impressive works by Fernando Botero. An exquisite bronze sculpture by Fernando Botero titled Femme Au Serpent (Ed: 3/9) sold for INR 1,34,91,225 in November 2022. A pencil and watercolour on paper work titled Couple, offered in the July 2023 auction was acquired at INR 75,33,838.
In AstaGuru’s upcoming ‘International Iconic’ auction extraordinary works by revered and iconic global artists such as Marc Chagall, Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso and Pierre-Auguste Renoir will be showcased. Among the works is an exquisite watercolour on paper work by Fernando Botero titled A Man And Woman With Umbrella. Executed in 2023, this work explores his signature motif of couples as well as his unique style and is estimated at INR 60,00,000-80,00,000.
Scheduled to be held on 23rd-24th November, 2023, the auction will also offer distinctive works by internationally acclaimed contemporary artists, including Andy Warhol, Robert Indiana, Takashi Murakami and Ai Weiwei.
Larissa Guimaraes has recently joined AstaGuru as a consultant in the International Art department. She was trained as an art historian at Columbia University, and as an architect at Princeton University. Having lived in five countries, she utilizes her design background and international exposure to integrate markets by connecting pieces and collectors internationally. Her interest in niche markets brought her to South Asia after a decade in New York, where she worked in curatorial roles – in museums, private estates and non-profit foundations – for over five years.
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