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19|09|12 "Horse with Bridles" by Fernando Botero

Fernando Botero’s monumental sculpture Horse with Bridles is on display in the city’s Gran Vía

Fernando Botero’s monumental sculpture "Horse with Bridles" is on display in the city’s Gran Vía outside the head offices of Basque savings bank BBK, which is sponsoring the "Fernando Botero. Celebration" exhibition opening on October 8 at the museum

Opening on October 8 at the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum’s BBK gallery (08/10/12–10/02/13), Fernando Botero. Celebration is an exhibition of artworks by the best known Latin American artist of the second half of the 20th century, Fernando Botero (Medellín, Columbia, 1932). Coinciding with Botero’s 80th birthday, the eighty works on display were produced over the last 60 years and together provide an overview of the career of a painter with a highly personal style based on the exaltation of volume and colour. Seventy-nine paintings in all are accompanied by the monumental bronze sculpture Horse with Bridles (2009. 311 x 305 x 150 cm), on Bilbao’s Gran Vía, outside the head offices of the savings bank sponsoring the exhibition. Most of the paintings come from the artist’s own collection, and will be distributed in the gallery to create an itinerary encompassing the essential themes of his extensive production: Early Works, Latin America, Religion and the Clergy, The Circus, Versions, Abu Ghraib, The Bullfight and Still-Life.

Horse with Bridles is one of the finest examples of Botero’s sculpture, a branch of art he started to work on in earnest in 1973. His characteristic style of exuberant mass and volume is echoed in the rounded forms of the portrayals of animals and humans, either individuals or in couples, although, on occasion, fragmented. The sensuality of colour so typical of his painting is substituted by the smooth, brilliant surface of marble or, as in this case, bronze, which Botero prefers when working on sculptures. He usually starts with clay models that he then transposes into marble or bronze at his Tuscan hideaway in Pietrasanta, famous for the nearby marble quarries at Carrara (often visited by Michelangelo) and for its bronze foundries. Botero set up his studio there in 1983.

From the mid-1980s, Botero’s large-scale sculptures began to appear on the streets of a number of cities around the world. But his reputation really took off in 1992, when he presented the most important public exhibition of his sculptures on the Champs Élysées in Paris. Since then, he has had shows in many of the world’s most famous avenues and squares, including the grand New York Avenues, Madrid’s Paseo de Recoletos, the Praça do Comércio in Lisbon and the Piazza della Signoria in Florence, among many others. A variety of cultural influences stand behind the extraordinarily direct expressiveness of Botero’s sculptures: these influences range from Pre-Columbian art, Egyptian and Near Eastern art and archaic Greek statuary to the works of the Renaissance masters and, more recently, the sculpture of Henry Moore. Botero’s figures share with all these the iconic power and forceful presence that make their messages universally appealing.