Medellin is home to one of Latin America’s most renowned artists, Fernando Botero. Born in the city in 1932, he has become a celebrated artist from Paris to New York City, all the while maintaining tremendous influence over the public art of Medellin.
While he has a collection full of still-life and landscapes, perhaps Botero is best known for the rotund subjects he has featured in various collections throughout his career. Fondly referred to as “los gordos”, the proportionally enhanced figures represent various situations from the mundane to the morbid. As for Botero? He has said “Nunca he pintado una gorda”, which roughly translates to “I have never painted a fat person”. Rather, he explains that the exaggerated size is a glorification of life, and an exploration of artistic boundaries.
Whatever his intent, the sculptures and paintings of Botero are much loved amongst locals, and are consistently a highlight for visitors to Medellin. From the Museo de Antioquia, housing over 100 of his paintings, to the near 100 sculptures set throughout the city, Botero’s art has become symbolic of Medellin.
One of the most fascinating things to do in Medellin is to make a day of exploring the art of Botero. You’d best get your start at the Museo de Antioquia, one of the finest museums in Medellin. Amongst many other paintings, you can browse some of his best works from Pablo Escobar Dead, to Picador, to Head of Christ.
Once you’ve finished navigating the museum, head out to the Plaza Botero where his “gordos” take on an entirely new scale as larger than life sculptures. The plaza showcases 23 of his works like Man on a Horse and Roman Soldier. On the condition that his works are made visible and available to the public to touch and interact with, the enormous collection of sculptures in Plaza de las Esculturas and the nearby Parque Berrio are all donated.
After wandering Plaza Botero, you must make your way to Parque San Antonio. Of the many Botero sculptures in Medellin, Parque San Antonio is home to perhaps the most affecting of them all. Sitting side by side in the park are two versions of the Pájaro de Paz or “Bird of Peace”. The first version of the sculpture was destroyed in an alleged FARC bomb detonation that killed and injured concertgoers in 1995. Sitting beside the remnants is a replicated version of the original, placed as a memorial to the victims and “an homage to stupidity” as Botero was quoted saying.
Botero’s art, both within museum walls and throughout the streets of Medellin has a tremendous influence on the city’s overall feel. Revel at his masterpieces for too long, and you may just leave Medellin with a new perspective — you will be under the influence of Botero.