Fernando Botero returns to Colombia for final homecoming and tributes

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In a poignant and historic moment, the body of Fernando Botero, the esteemed Colombian artist who passed away on Friday, September 15 in Monaco, has returned to his native country. Just after 7:00 pm on Thursday, an Air France flight from Paris landed at El Dorado International Airport with the coffin of the celebrated Antioquian painter and sculptor.

Botero’s only daughter, Lina Botero, made the journey to her homeland on a commercial flight from Spain and was received by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. At 9 p.m., Lina arrived at Terminal 3, accompanied by representatives from the Ministry of Culture, to welcome the remains of her father.

The artist is also survived by two sons from his marriage to Gloria Zea, founder of the Ópera de Colombia and former director of Bogotá’s Museum of Modern Art (MAMBO). Fernando Botero Zea and Juan Carlos Botero Zea will attend the state ceremony and mass at the Primary Cathedral on Monday, September 25.

Botero’s third son, Pedro Botero Zambrano (1970-1974) died in a tragic car accident at age four. The renown artist was injured in the crash between Sevilla and Córdoba in southern Spain.

“What Botero accomplished throughout his 91 years, and at least 70 years of his career as a painter, draftsman, and sculptor, was in a way, a continuous transformation of his life and, through his gaze, a transformation of an entire country’s perspective, its appropriation of territory, and Colombian sensibility, merging it with the history of art,” remarked Culture Minister Juan David Correa at the airport.

Amid a heightened security presence, the casket containing maestro Fernando Botero was solemnly placed into the hearse in Bogotá. The body was then transferred to the Funeraria Gaviria in Chapinero for the necessary preparations before its journey to the Colombian Capitol, where it will lie in state until Sunday, September 24.

The coffin of artist Fernando Botero arrived in Bogotá from Paris. Photo: Noticias del Día/Twitter

Since news of the artist’s passing, visitors have also been paying their respects at Museo Botero in Bogotá’s La Candelaria district. The Museo Botero, owned by Colombia’s central bank – Banco de la República – houses one of the most important collections of Botero’s works, and opened its doors in the year 2000 to the public (Calle 11 No.4-41) with the donation from the artist.The main hall of Museo Botero has been adorned with flowers and a black and white portrait of the painter, alongside one of his bronze sculptures in honor of the artist’s homecoming.

Tribute to artist Fernando Botero inside Museo Botero in Bogotá. Photo: Richard Emblin

For those planning to pay their respects: The main entrance of the National Capitol will be open from Friday, September 22, facing Bogotá’s Plaza Bolívar. The exit will be through the lateral door of the Elíptico, on the Patio Nuñez side, at Carrera 7 with Calle 9. The visiting hours of Congress are: Friday from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm; Saturday from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm; and Sunday, from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm.

Backpacks and suitcases are not allowed inside Congress, and photography is prohibited inside the Elíptico hall of the National Capitol. Entry with minors is also not permitted.

Fernando Botero’s legacy extends beyond his remarkable artistic creations. Over his nine-decade journey, and illustrious 70-year career as a painter and sculptor, Botero’s work is a testament to the transformative power of art. Through his distinctive vision, he not only reshaped his own life, but also left an indelible mark on Colombia’s artistic and cultural landscape.

Botero’s ability to fuse Colombian sensibility with the rich tapestry of art history showcased his profound understanding of both his heritage and global artistic traditions. His iconic, voluptuous figures and vibrant canvases transcended boundaries, captivating audiences worldwide.

As Colombia pays its respects to a beloved artist, the nation recognizes the enduring importance of Botero’s artistic legacy, and one that will continue to inspire generations and unite cultures through the universal language of art.

Visitors from around the world have been paying their respects to Fernando Botero at the Museo Botero in Bogotá. Photo: Richard Emblin
Richard Emblin
Richard Emblin is the director of The City Paper.

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