Since Friday, hundreds of Colombians have paid a final tribute to the artist Fernando Botero, who died on September 15, parading in front of his remains in Bogota. The sculptor is the subject of a week of commemorative ceremonies in his native country.
Arriving Thursday evening from Monaco, where the painter and sculptor died of pneumonia at the age of 91, the coffin covered with the Colombian tricolor flag is exhibited in an ardent chapel open to the public at the seat of Parliament. A first ceremony started to the sound of a choir accompanied by an orchestra and decorated with dozens of floral arrangements was first performed in front of deputies, senators, and family members.
“We are overwhelmed, moved and deeply grateful for the expressions of affection, recognition and gratitude shown to my father (...),” said his daughter Lina Botero. “Bringing my father back to his homeland one last time, so that Colombians can say goodbye to him, was one of our greatest wishes,” she added.
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The President of the Senate, Ivan Name, praised this “universal Colombian”. Botero “stopped the world for a moment (...) he did it with a brush and with his hands, when he managed to paint a different world. A world that reflected the reality of his country, but which also contained the secret keys to the human spirit,” he said.
A long line of anonymous people, stretching since the beginning of the afternoon, then bowed in front of the coffin of the most famous Colombian artist in the world. Mercedes Rojas, a retired bacteriologist, says she will keep from Botero "his representation of daily life in Colombia (...) of the family, of a day in the countryside, of the woman, of the priest, of the people".
Santiago Soto, a 56-year-old actor and painter, was also waiting for his turn. “Death does not exist, what exists is oblivion,” he told AFP. For him, Botero “is immortal, his work and his name are already inscribed in golden letters of the same size as Picasso and Van Gogh”.
The body of the artist, famous for his figures with voluptuous shapes, will remain accessible to public tributes until Sunday, in the heart of the historic center of Bogota. On Monday, the remains will be transferred to Medellin, his hometown, where several events will be organized before the cremation of the body. His ashes will then be brought back to Europe, to the cemetery of the small Italian village of Pietrasanta where he lived, to be placed next to his wife, the Greek artist Sophia Vari, who died in May.
Fernando Botero, whose works have been sold at auction for sums of up to $4.3 million, has also been a major patron, with donations estimated at more than $200 million. He offered many of his works and dozens of paintings from his private collection to the museums of Medellin and Bogota, including Picasso, Monet, Renoir, Miro...
His numerous sculptures are also visible outdoors in many cities around the world, the artist believing that exhibitions in public spaces are a “revolutionary rapprochement” of art with the public.