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Colombian Master Fernando Botero to Offer Solo Sale at Sotheby's in New York
Fernando Botero, A Family. Oil on canvas, 74 x 74 in., 187.5 x 187.5 cm. Est. $1/1.5 million. Photo: Sotheby's.

NEW YORK, NY.- On 25 May 2011 Sotheby’s will present a remarkable group of works by the Colombian master Fernando Botero in a single-artist evening sale. The auction, entitled Fernando Botero: A Celebration, takes place alongside A Discerning Eye: Latin American Masterpieces from a Private Collection and the various owner Latin American Art evening sale. It is the first single-artist sale held by Sotheby’s Latin American Art department since the auction of Joaquín Torres-Garcia’s works from the estate of Royal S. Marks in 1992. The Botero works are predominantly drawn from two extremely distinguished collections and were assembled over several decades. They include the quintessential themes and iconic images that have made Botero arguably the most recognized living artist in the world.

The sale will be led by A Family from 1972, one of the most important of a series of family scenes painted throughout Botero’s career (est. $1/1.5 million). Unlike many other works in the series which exude Latin American attributes and qualities, the location of this group is unclear. Whilst families posing for posterity have been painted for hundreds of years, this is an obviously modern composition; the father sits while the mother stands and the group seem to be posing but not yet ready for the picture.

Among the highlights from A Distinguished East Coast Collection will be the monumental 1992 bronze Man on a Horse, one of the artists most important sculptures and an early example of this quintessentially-Botero image (est. $800,000/1.2 million), El Presidente, one of the most famous pastel on paper works by the artist (est. $300/400,000), and Nude from 1983 (est. $500/700,000). Further major highlights come from A Discerning Eye: Latin American Masterpieces From A Private Collection including Reclining Woman from 1987 (est. $500/700,000) and El Poeta, a portrait of a man relaxing by a stream inspired by a Manet work (est. $500/700,000).

Botero has created a unique and instantly recognizable style with an imagery that has the power to provoke and even shock the viewer. His early paintings resulted from a close study of the Old Masters, as well as Paul Cezanne and the Abstract Expressionists. By the time Botero arrived in America he had already been the subject of a one man show at the Pan American Union in Washington DC. However, it was with MOMAs acquisition of his 1959 masterpiece Mona Lisa, Age Twelve, the only non abstract acquisition the museum made that year, that he was launched into the mainstream. A number of themes and motifs run through the artists work including, generals, female nudes and horses all of which can be found in this auction.

Man on Horse celebrates a land-owner riding his horse to oversee his domain (est. $800,000/1.2 million). Throughout his career Botero captures the themes which shaped his childhood memories and the man depicted here perhaps represents his father. Also following this theme, Botero’s son is portrayed on a horse in Pedro on a Horse from 1977 (est. $350/450,000).

In Nude from 1983 we are presented with a typically voluptuous female in an intimate interior setting (est. $500/700,000). No subject has occupied Botero’s creative process more than the nude. His sensuous depictions celebrat the female form and recall the renderings of Rubens and Titian, but update the image to explore issues of the body and gender in contemporary culture. This painting is rich with symbolism: the light blue curtain is perhaps in homage to Picasso’s Demoiselle d'Avignon, the apples on the floor remind us of a lost innocence and the wristwatch hints at the passage of time whilst also suggesting the imminent arrival of a lover.

Like painters throughout art history Botero has frequently depicted figures of power, with portraits of Bishops, Generals and Presidents. However, they do not pay homage but satirize and ridicule these men as can be seen in El Presidente (est. $300/400,000). Here a figure decorated with the Presidential band stands next to his office desk with a globe tilted towards South America under the protection of an eagle. However, the hapless bird is too fat to fly. Despite this, and the further ridicule of the buzzing fly in the background, a humanity and grace can be seen in Botero’s depiction of this powerful figure.

In contrast to the pomp of El Presidente, the 1970 painting El Poeta recalls Manet’s Dejeuner sur l'Herbe and shows a poet reclining on grass by a stream (est. $500/700,000). The figure has just smoked a cigarette and is now gazing into the distance in search of inspiration.

Further highlights include Lovers on a French Sofa from 1972 (est. $500/700,000), the 1981 bronze Cat (est. $350/450,000), the 1987 sculpture Reclining Woman (est. $500/700,000).

All the works goon view in the pre-sale exhibition opens on Saturday 21 May.

*Estimates do not include buyers premium

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