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Fernando Botero was born in 1932 in provincial Medellin, Colombia. His father died when he was but four years old, a tragedy that still lives with him. However, this tragedy did not hamper his artistic sensibility and curiosity. Botero’s passion for bullfights as a child led him to create watercolours of the subject, which he then sold for 5 pesos near the gate of the arena in order to pay his entrance.
His work continued, and at 19 he had his first solo exhibition in Bogotá at the Leo Matiz Gallery. Soon after, he departed for Europe where he studied in Madrid at the Academy of San Fernando and worked in the style of Velazquez and Goya. He continued on to Florence where he studied fresco techniques of the Italian masters. Piero della Francesca and Giotto particularly inspired him.
After two years in Italy, he returned to Columbia and married his first wife. However, he did not stay long and left for Mexico to learn about Pre-Colombian art and study Mexican artists including Diego Riviera. At this time Botero began to form his own style, merging his European influences with his Latin sensibility. In 1957, he was invited to exhibit at the Pan-American Union in Washington, DC, where he met and was impressed by a number of American artists.
Returning to Bogotá, he became a professor at the Academy of Art at 26 but found himself drawn to New York City. In 1960, he moved into a studio in Greenwich Village and found a gallery that would buy paintings for $10 each.
Refusing to submit to the edicts of Abstract Expressionism and trying to remain faithful to his South American roots, he was deeply wounded by the critics' virulence at his first shows. The struggles of the New York years were hard on his marriage, which soon foundered. He subsequently married Sophia Vari but tragically their only son was killed in a car accident in Spain at the age of four in the early 70s.
In spite of the early criticism, Botero developed a faithful following of devoted art lovers and gradually expanded his market to Europe, particularly Germany, where they embraced his poetic, mythical work. By the late sixties, Botero began to receive recognition in both America and Europe. As his successes continued, he bought a large home and studio in Long Island.
In 1973, he moved to France where he focused for a while on sculpture. Over the years, he has refined and simplified his palette, akin to the restrictions of the 16th Century masters, working with but four colours. Today Botero is a national hero and a renowned artist who has exhibited at many of the most prestigious galleries and museums around the globe. His work hangs in numerous important collections including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, the Museum Moderne Kunst in Vienna, Austria, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York and the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia to name a few.
Botero’s portraits of rotund figures and animals reflect a multi-layered history of education and art that also expresses a political awareness of contemporary life in Columbia. The artist continues to create today, expanding his ideas, reflecting and challenging his audience while evoking a subtle beauty that is timeless yet very much revealing of our time.
2019 University of California, Berkeley
2016 Kunsthal Rotterdam, Netherlands
2016 China Art Museum, Shanghai
2016 The National Museum of China, Beijing
2015 Seoul Arts Center, Seoul
2012 Kunstforum, Viena
2011 Winnipeg Art Gallery, Winnipeg
2010 Glenbow Museum, Calgary
2010 Pera Museum, Istanbul
2010 Nevada Museum of Art, Reno, Nevada
2009 Brooks Museum of Art, Memphis, Tennessee
2008 Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington
2008 Centro de las Artes, Monterrey, Mexico
2007 American University Museum, Washington
2007 University of California, Berkeley
2007 Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec
2005 Palazzo Venezia, Rome
2004 The Art Museum, Singapore
2003 The Doge’s Palace and other locations, Venice
2003 The Gemeente Museum, Aja
2003 The Maillol Museum, Paris
2002 Museum of Modern Art, Copenhagen
2001 Moderna Musset, Stockholm
2000 The Museum of Antioquìa, Medellìn
2000 City di Pietrasanta
1998 - 1999 San Paolo Museum of Art, San Paolo
1998-1999The National Museum of Fine Arts, Rio de Janeiro
1998-1999 The Monterey Museum of Contemporary Art
1998-1999 The Art Museum, Tel Aviv
1997 The National Museum of Fine Arts, Santiago
1997 The Modern Art Museum of Lugano
1996 The Israel Museum, Jerusalem
1996 The Art Museum of the Americas, Washington D.C.
1996 Niigata Prefectural Modern Art Museum, Niigata
1996 Sonje Museum of Contemporary Art, Kyongju
1996 The Sofia Imber Museum of Contemporary Art, Caracas
1994-1995 Museo of Art, Takamatsu City
1994-1995 Shinjuku Mitsukoshi Museum of Art, Mitsukoshi
1994-1995 Iwaki City Art Museum, Iwaki
1994 Helsinki City Art Museum
1994 The National Museum of Fine Arts, Buenos, Aires
1994 Paseo de Recoletos, Madrid
1994 Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Buenos Aires Paseo de Recoletes, Madrid
1994 Museum of Art, Fort Lauderdale
1992-1993 Montecarlo Kunsthaus, Vienna
1992-1993 Champs-Elysées, Paris
1992-1993 The Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg
1991 Exhibition Palace, Rome
1989 The Coro Museum of the Arts