Housed in a striking Art Deco building on Plaza de la Escultura’s west side, this fantastic art museum is Medellín’s cultural highlight and the second oldest museum in the nation. More than 100 sculptures and artworks donated by Medellín’s native son, Fernando Botero (b. 1932) grace the third floor Sala Botero. With its hushed aura and lack of crowds (except on the weekend), you could easily muse on Colombian art and wander the tranquil patios and inner courtyard for a few hours.
Botero’s signature works (Botero has referred to himself as the “most Colombian of Colombian artists”) are renowned for their study of rotund people, animals, and objects. According to the artist, his aim was not to satirize his bulbous protagonists but rather to explore shape, proportion, and volume. There are still life canvases of exotic fruits, the lush landscapes of Antioquia, historical characters, and socio-political statements. One gallery is dedicated to a series of watercolors that depict the pomp, pageantry, and bloodlust of bullfighting; Botero’s uncle enrolled him in bullfighting school, but he was more interested in exploring the “sport” through art. Botero’s sublime sculptures mirror the motifs from his paintings (executed in a figurative style known as Boterismo), and include reclining nudes, body parts, and gallant soldiers on horseback.
It’s hard to talk about highlights, but the monumental canvases that depict the Visit of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette to Medellín (1990); the sublime Cabeza (1981), carved from Siena marble; the chocolaty bronze Mujer con Moño (1983); and the luscious 12-foot-tall representations of Adam and Eve embody the themes and style that characterize Botero’s seminal works. The violence that took Medellín to the brink of collapse during the 1990s finds expression in Pablo Escobar Muerto (2006) with Escobar, lying on a red-tiled roof, his large belly riddled with bullets. The museum also contains a number of other excellent exhibits, including a hall featuring the works of international artists (including Rodin and Rufino Tamayo), and an exhibit featuring religious and colonial art from the period of conquest in South America; don’t miss one of Colombia’s most famous paintings, Horizontes, by Francisco Antonio Cano.