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Fernando Botero: 1932—: Artist

Botero And The Medellín Cartel

Over the years, Botero grew incensed that his home-town of Medellín became linked with an infamous drug-trafficking cartel of the same name. Run by Colombian druglord Pablo Escobar, the Medellín cartel gained an international reputation for cunning and violence. Botero was reportedly angered that two of his paintings were found in Escobar's home after the kingpin was slain in 1993. The death of Escobar, however, did not end the violence in Medellín, and the artist himself was a victim of a kidnaping there in 1994. In June of 1995, a bomb attack in downtown Medellín targeted a statue of a dove that Botero had donated to the city. The symbol of peace exploded, killing 25. A guerrilla group claimed responsibility, calling Botero a symbol of oppression, and though he was initially angry, he cast a new dove for the plaza.

Colombia's political quagmire has even affected Botero's relations with his son, also called Fernando. The younger Botero was accused of accepting drug money when he served as campaign director for President Ernesto Samper's successful 1994 election, and the two did not speak for a time. In 1996, however, the Harvard-educated younger Botero, then serving as the country's defense minister, voiced public criticism of Samper and admitted that large sums had been donated to the campaign by drug kingpins.

In 2000 Botero began showing a series of paintings that reflected the recent decade of political violence in Colombia. One depicted Escobar's death, while others portrayed car bombings and bar massacres. Such subject matter was a distinct change from his usual bucolic style, he agreed in a Christian Science Monitor article. "Art should be an oasis, a place or refuge from the hardness of life," Botero told the paper. "But the Colombian drama is so out of proportion that today you can't ignore the violence, the thousands displaced and dead, the processions of coffins. Against all my principles, I had to paint [the violence]."

Additional topics

Brief BiographiesBiographies: Shennen Bersani (1961-) Biography - Personal to Mark Burgess Biography - PersonalFernando Botero: 1932—: Artist Biography - Trained As Bullfighter, Developed Signature Style, Botero And The Medellín Cartel, Donated Paintings To Colombia