Medellín: Botero city
Discover the close relationship between Medellín and Botero by visiting Plaza Botero and the Museo de Antioquia.
By Julia Henríquez
Photos: Demian Colman, Julieta Duque, Museo de Antioquia
My first contact with artist Fernando Botero was through the cover of a book in the library of the house where I grew up. I can still remember that image: an impressive bronze torso with a small human head on top. Busto, or Bust in English, the original name of the piece, was, in a way, part of my childhood.
Botero was a mere teenager when he had his first exhibition. The work that set him off on his endless path was inspired by a mandolin, which led him to study and fall in love with the proportions that characterize his world-famous works.
After traveling the world and achieving global fame, Fernando Botero, who divides his time between Europe and North America, decided to contribute to his hometown of Medellín’s efforts to invest in culture and education.
And now, standing among these 23 colossal figures, I am once again in the presence of Botero and reminded of my childhood.
The project required the purchase and demolition of several houses in front of the Museum, as well as the design and construction of the square, where the main attraction, clearly, is the works displayed in it, created by the country’s best known sculptor and painter.
A walk through the square is an encounter with a mixture of accents, languages, and cameras, all captivated by the majesty of the sculptures, which seem to be resting under the Antioquian sun. It is unreal to be in the presence of these towering and, of course, voluminous mythical figures who have traveled the world and endowed it with a new sense of beauty.
Fernando Botero has created a style so marked and so unique that it has its own name. Boterismo is the technique used to fatten each element represented in the painting, be it a human figure, an object, or even a small detail in the background. The Museum’s various collections reflect the artist’s passions, Antioquian culture, and memory, including a reflection on Colombia’s armed conflict, “narco-culture,” and even a lawsuit against human rights violations around the world.
The Museum’s permanent indoor collection includes paintings, sketches, and sculptures as well as an interactive room dedicated to Pedrito Botero, Fernando’s deceased son, which allows little ones to get closer to the artist’s creations and see his story from another perspective.
Aside from focusing on the city’s greatest artistic export, the Museum includes more than 5,000 works that explore the emergence, journey, and evolution of Antioquia and Colombia’s artistic history.
It is a living collection, expanded daily, with historical and contemporary works from Colombia and abroad and all kinds of cultural activities that draw more and more of the city’s inhabitants, encouraging them to participate in the arts from every possible angle.
Another of the Museum’s permanent galleries is dedicated to Luis Caballero, an artist from Bogotá whose exhibitions gained global recognition following his triumph at the first Coltejer Biennial in 1968. His famous nudes shook the world with bold stories told with unique strokes.
The Museum’s El Barro Tiene Voz (Clay Has a Voice) Gallery features ceramic works that tell the story of Colombia’s original people. Of special interest is the timeline running from ancestral times to the present and the inclusion of both popular ceramic traditions and pieces by contemporary artists working with clay.
The Historias Para Repensar (Stories for Rethinking) Gallery focuses on late 19th-century art and offers a journey in time through the region’s artistic traditions, to better understand the idiosyncrasies of the city and the department. The 20th-21st Century Gallery, as the name indicates, exhibits modern and abstract works of art that combine new forms of expression.
Finally, on display in the International Gallery are original works by international artists, part of Maestro Botero’s donation, which highlight moments in the history of world art for everyone’s enjoyment.