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Museo Botero (Bogota, Colombia)

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Location: Calle 11 No. 4-41, Bogotá / Type: Art gallery featuring the work of Colombian artist Botero

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      05.04.2011 12:40
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      He likes the fatty fatty bum bums

      The Museo Botero was one of the first museums I visited in Bogota, but I've been back again since because it's one I rather like. Initially I went because it was open on a Monday (few are), from 9am (most are 10am) and free all week (most only waive the entrance fee on a Sunday), and because it was near work - I was killing time waiting for the director to come in as my class had been cancelled.


      ~~ Botero ~~

      Born in 1932, Botero is "the most Colombian of Colombian artists", at least if you ask him at any rate. His distinctive style is, to put it bluntly, all things fat. Note how I didn't say people - he can make animals, food and plants just as tubby as his personal models. You can get an idea of his style here:

      http://www.banrepcultural.org/museos-y-colecciones/museo-botero/fernando-botero

      His family life has been a bit of a soap opera. His first wife was the Colombian Minister of Culture, while one of his sons became Defence Minister before being sent to prison for financial naughtiness. Said son is now living in Mexico to avoid returning to jail though I'm surprised he couldn't just pay to get write off the convictions (here, for example, boys have a choice of doing military service or buying their way out of it...). A daughter is an actress, while another son died in a car crash some years ago. Botero is now married to a Greek artist and splitting his time between France and Italy, which makes you wonder if he really is the most Colombian of Colombians.


      ~~~ Visiting ~~~

      The museum is one in a complex maze of museums, but since all are free you can just wander from one to another, seeing what you find along the way. Because of the hilly nature of Bogota, the museum's entrance is sort of below street level, and accessed via a steep set of stone steps, which look like they are concealing a sheer drop right up until you are literally at the edge.

      This is a very laid back place to visit as there is no ticket booth to queue at, and for the most part there's no enforced bag check so you really can just wander in off the street or, at the most extreme, use it as a shortcut from one Carrera to another. To get directly to the Museo Botero, you go in the entrance and turn right. It's then the next entrance on the right. Something a little odd about the museum is that it features more than just Botero's work. This is especially peculiar because there are multiple art museums in the complex, so you'd think they could have roped off a corner just for Botero, and integrated the remaining pieces into the other collections. If you want the Botero pieces you need to turn left once you're in the museum itself. If you go right you'll find pieces from everyone but him.

      This collection has been in its current form since being donated by Botero in 2000. There are approximately 123 pieces by him (pencil drawings, painted canvases, sculptures and carvings). In addition, the museum has more than 80 pieces from perhaps more well known international artists including Renoir, Dalí, Delvaux, Picasso and Miró.

      On my latest visit I went to the non-Botero side first to admire the oversized and colourful canvases by Picasso, and to have a nosy at the works of artists with whom I am less familiar. Throughout the museum, there is minimal information provided. The plaques list the author's details and the name of the piece in whatever language it was originally named (i.e. not translated) but most of them are pretty easy to work out even if they're not in English.

      This is especially true when you head over to the Botero rooms as he has a habit of naming his works in a very matter-of-fact way.

      "Caballo" it says, next to the painting of a horsey who looks like he could barely walk, let alone trot.

      "Monalisa" it says, next to a version of what the classic would look like if she suddenly ate all the pies.

      "El bano" it says next to a vaguely disturbing image of a tubby, naked body floating in a bath (partly reflected in a mirror for twice the tubby, naked fun)

      The theme continues with some interesting variation - just when you've had enough of looking at what the Michelin man's naked family would look like (rolls of flab, oh so many rolls) we move onto the non-humans. There is a bunch of flowers that simply look odd so voluptuous and some bananas that rather than looking juicy (or even entertainingly pornographic) just look like Franken-foods. Later on the 'imitation is the best form of flattery' continues with a version Van Gogh's Sunflowers, but this time as well as being well fed flowers, they also have a bizarre, almost knitted texture to them.

      Upstairs in addition to wall mounted pieces there are dozens of interesting sculptures. As on the floor below, Botero's stuff is segregated from the rest, but I would recommend having a nosy at all of it. The Botero stuff continues the theme of fattiness, though it a little repetitive - the same horse who was framed downstairs is now 3D and standing proudly in a display case. I've also seen a monster version of this horse outside in a plaza in Medellin. I think this guy really liked Black Beauty's obese playmates.

      I would highly recommend this museum as it is distinctly Colombian (though at the same time perhaps not entirely representative of the whole nation's approach to art). I've never seen anything like it before, and every time I returned I'm reminded of just quite how extreme it is. You can spend ages in here wandering from room to room, absorbing the art around you, and it has a really fun and young atmosphere in contrast to some more sombre, traditional galleries. What I especially like is that it's not just one painting in one style - there's a whole catalogue of works with a distinctive design, and I'm positive that any time I'm shown an image from now on, I'll be able to identify correctly if it's a Botero or not. Which, y'know, may come in useful in a pub quiz in the future. It's exciting for me to be getting to grips with a particular artist from my lifetime as so many of the others I favour are older, with most dead and buried.

      This museum is a lovely, peaceful place to visit, even when overrun with school groups. I have visited on days when it has been freezing, and days when it has been super hot and sunny. Whatever the weather outside, it's always a pleasant temperature inside which is a feat not many museums here manage. This particular part of the complex is set around a large square courtyard, with rooms on two levels and lovely wooden balconies. There are a couple of staircases but I didn't spot a lift.




      ~~ Useful Info ~~

      Address: Calle 11, 4-41 (it's the big building just off Carrera 4, and the entrance is by the Juan Valdez coffee place)

      Open: Monday and Wednesday to Saturday, 9am - 7pm

      Sunday and Holidays, 10am - 5pm

      Closed Tuesdays

      Entrance is free

      There are guided tours twice a day during the week, at 11am and 4pm and regularly on Saturdays. All are in Spanish but I may try one one of these days just to see what they're like.

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