Colombian artist Fernando Botero launches book in NYC

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Adriana LaRota and Fernando Botero in NYC (Photo: Zygmunt Malinowski)

A report from our roving photographer in New York City, Zygmunt Malinowski:

Does an art book sell well in a digital age? Yes, if you are Colombian artist Fernando Botero.

A month ago I received an intriguing email for a book launch of Bullfight: Paintings and Works on Paper (Glitterati, $125) by Fernando Botero, one of the most recognized living artists of Latin America. The event included a press conference followed by a book-signing. The artist is best known for his voluptuous sculptures and paintings.botero1

I recalled that in the 1990s his large generous sculptures standing in the median of Park Avenue caused a sensation. Since the artist is known mostly for his sculpture and paintings, not books, I didn’t know when an opportunity to meet him face-to-face would occur again, so I decided to attend.

The launch took place on October 16 at the Americas Society. Waiting in the light wood-paneled Mexican Room with other journalists for the beginning of the press conference, I was startled to hear a greeting in Spanish. I turned around and was facing the man himself, a well-dressed, good-natured gentleman accompanied by media director Adriana LaRota. With his black round horn-rimmed glasses, he could have passed for a distinguished professor, a scholar, or an eminent doctor. He looked exceptionally well for his 82 years. Botero calmly answered questions and smiled from time to time. The press conference was in Spanish with optional English, but the following session for the general audience was to be in English.

The artist later spoke about studying in Medellin, Paris, Spain, and Italy. He explained that one of his influences was the Quattrocento,  along with 15th century art and Latin colonial paintings. He established a style of his own – Boterisimo – and  answered questions about his characteristically exaggerated proportions and powerful, rotund people and figures.

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Botero’s “Gato” – a small version. (Photo: Zygmunt Malinowski)

Maya Jimenez, an art history scholar, told us that Botero painted the spectacle of the bullring rather than the fight itself – that is, he portrayed the ceremony of dressed-up colorful matadors, picadors, and the audience. Botero was fascinated with bullfighting ever since he was a young boy and even attended a bullfighting school for a few months. She also discussed individual works of art – how the backward-looking figure on one of his drawings drew us into the painting, or how, in another painting, the composition with a few figures was circular and animated, and that “the scale and proportion, his trademark, is relevant to importance.”

The public’s interest in book signing was not surprising given the stature of the artist – like having Picasso visit for a day. There was a long line of well-heeled fans that stretched through the Mexican room and the entire corridor leading into the room, each person holding the large, newly purchased book and waiting to have it signed by the famous artist.

I passed the only known outdoor sculpture by Botero in New York City, a monumental and amusing cat, “Gato,” several times in the past but alas, when I went to see it again this time it was gone, sold to a client in Germany. However a statuette remains in a nearby apartment building, which I was able to photograph. It’s above right.



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2 Responses to “Colombian artist Fernando Botero launches book in NYC”

  1. Una Colombiana Says:

    He’s Colombian, not Columbian.

  2. Cynthia Haven Says:

    Of course he is. What sharp eyes you have.Correction made.