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Fernando Botero (1932–2023)

Image: Fernando Botero in his studio with The President and the First Lady (1969, oil on canvas), 1969.

It is with deep sadness that Marlborough announces the passing of artist Fernando Botero at ninety-one years old. We extend our heartfelt condolences to his family and friends.
Since 1972, the gallery has had the privilege of organizing twenty-nine solo exhibitions of the artist. Brilliant, multifaceted, and prolific, Botero exhibited in the most prominent museums in the world and his work is present in numerous international collections and public spaces. He will be remembered both for his signature style and for his lasting impact on the development and expansion of Latin American contemporary art.

Fernando Botero was born in Medellín, Colombia in 1932. Originally trained as a matador, Botero quickly abandoned the profession and held his first exhibition in 1948. In the early 1950s, Botero sojourned to Europe, studying art at Madrid's Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, exploring the work of Old Masters at the Louvre, and examining Italian Renaissance frescoes in Florence. The artist moved to New York in 1960 and briefly experimented with the gestural style of the New York School before honing in on the heavily stylized, volumetric technique for which he is known.  

Botero cited the Italian Renaissance as the foundation of his practice where he discovered the “plastic essence of painting” in the works of artists such as Piero della Francesca and Andrea Mantegna. Most important to his development of the iconic “Boterismo” style was Bernard Berenson’s concept of “tactile value” regarding volume. Botero spent most of his career living in Europe and the United States, however much of his work maintained a dream-like nostalgia for Medellín. His interest in centering voluminous female forms was equally indebted to the pre-Colombian statuary of San Agustín and the enormous Olmec heads of Central America, as well as the influence of the Mexican Muralists and Rufino Tamayo. Ultimately, the Boterismo style reflects a lush world of simultaneous abundance and sorrow, teeming with personal and universal humor and symbolism. 

Fernando Botero held his first exhibition at Marlborough in 1972 and mounted nearly forty solo and group exhibitions with the gallery. MoMA PS1 featured Botero’s Abu Ghraib series in Theater of Operations: The Gulf Wars 1991-2011 in 2019. He exhibited widely, mounting solo shows at the Bank Austria Kunstforum, Vienna, Austria; Pera Museum, Istanbul, Turkey; Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest, Hungary; National Museum of Contemporary Art, Seoul, South Korea; Casa das Artes de Vigo, Vigo, Spain; Casa das Artes de Vigo, Vigo, Spain; and the Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec, Québec City, Québec, among others.  

His work is held in many prominent institutions worldwide, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York, New York; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, New York; Museo de Arte Moderno de Bogotá, Bogotá, Colombia; Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois; Colección Fernando Botero, Fundación Banco Santander, Medellín, Colombia; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian

Institution, Washington, District of Columbia; Museo d’Arte Moderna del Vaticano, Rome, Italy; Museo Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá, Colombia; Museum Moderne Kunst, Ludwig Foundation, Vienna, Austria; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts; New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans, Louisiana; University of California, Berkeley, California; and The State Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg, Russia, among others.

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