press release

This summer Kunsthal Rotterdam is proud to present a large-scale retrospective of the world-famous Colombian artist Fernando Botero (1932). This selection from Botero’s own collection provides a panorama of the artist’s personal favourites from his considerable oeuvre. ‘Botero: Celebrate Life!’ will exhibit almost a hundred paintings, sketches and pastels as well as a few sculptures, including the enormous eye-catcher ‘Caballo’, Botero’s famous sculpture of a horse.

Visitors will be able to see paintings of life in Latin America based on reminiscences from his youth, and reproductions of classical masters in the recognisable Botero style. The bull-fight and the circus are also featured in these works. Botero’s art is full of Latin American life. The gigantic, inflated bodies and objects appear weightless in spite of their volume, which sometimes even seems to make them look as if they are floating. This volume is a recurrent feature in Botero’s work and gives his art an exuberance that can be comical or moving. The series of female Santas, inspired by the iconic images of female saints, is remarkable. Botero represents them as worldly heroines with meaningful accessories such as a bible or candle, putting their halo in sharp contrast with their clothing and posture.

Latin American life

'Botero: Celebrate Life!' shows how Fernando Botero creates a magical world full of characters and scenes from daily life, of which politics and religion form an important part. Although his work appears at first sight to be airy and light-hearted, the violent history of his native country Colombia can be felt. His origin and background have influenced Botero profoundly, which finds expression directly in his works of the president, executions and weeping widows, and indirectly in his paintings of people partying, dancing with expressionless faces under the light of naked light bulbs.

Homage to the Old Masters

Fernando Botero is a multi-faceted artist who draws on both the Latin American tradition and the history of European art. He pays homage to famous works by such Old Masters as Diego Velázquez, Jan van Eyck and Piero della Francesca. The works are a tribute to the artists whom he studied for years and an ode to the techniques, craftsmanship and aesthetics of the Old Masters. Religion is one of Botero’s favourite themes. He comments on it satirically in paintings of nuns, cardinals and popes. Other themes in his work try to capture the magic of everyday life in Latin America. For example, his images of bull-fights include not only the matador, but also the singers, musicians, dancers and various members of the bull-fighter’s family. His still-lifes show the fruits and beverages of the South American continent with their brilliant colours and popular delicacies. And in his paintings of the circus we can recognise the comical and absurd postures in which not only the constantly recurring volume but also the use of colour are highly determinant elements.

Exhibition catalogue

The richly illustrated catalogue 'Botero: Celebrate Life!' will be published to accompany the exhibition.