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Friday, July 31, 2009

Until The Fat Lady Sings

"Meet you at the Fat Bird at 1pm okay?"

Those working in Singapore's Central Business District would have uttered or SMSed this phrase to a lunch or dinner companion at some point during their weekdays (I'm really really sorry for those making such arrangements at Raffles Place while back in the office on weekends. It's time to change your job) spent slogging in Raffles Place

Meeting up with friends under the big fat toes of The Bird was my first encounter with Botero, more famously known for his paintings of fat women than birds, actually. The Colombian artist was born in Medellin, a city 9 hours by road from Bogota. Nevertheless, he has an impressive collection on display at the Donacion Botera in Bogota - 123 of his paintings, drawings and sculptures are available for public viewing, free of charge. There are also 85 other pieces by famous artists such as Dali and Picasso. The gallery (located in a very large old house) is a mere 3-minute walk from our hostel in the La Candelaria area.

We decided to explore Botero's artwork one afternoon. Now, we are not really the artistic sort - having never been to any art exhibitions or galleries back home, except for the Singapore Biennale - simply because the event, on both occasions that it was held, was linked to my work. I do like dabbling in art (I speak for myself only because Dan tells me he constantly failed at art throughout school) but spending a day gazing at art pieces isn't quite my cup of tea.

Uncultured as we deem ourselves to be, we went anyway, because (1) which better place to learn more about Botero than in Colombia itself; (2) entrance to the gallery was free of charge; and (3) we were running out of things to do in Bogota.

The Great Hand at the entrance greets visitors with a cheery wave... Hola mis amigos!

The gallery was packed with school children of all ages on the day we were there. I think it's really great that the kids here can enjoy an excursion to an art gallery on a school day. Goes to show that it's okay to screw maths and science for a day in the name of art appreciation. I definitely don't recall having the luxury of visiting a museum or art gallery as part of my school curriculum. Excursions of any sort took place only once a year after the exams ended and were limited to the zoo, Pasir Ris Park and repeated visits to the Science (yawn) Centre. Thankfully, the bar was raised in secondary school and we got to travel overseas. Somewhat. To Kukup (seafood lunch at a kelong) and Malacca (visit to the rubber plantation.)

The primary school kids were pretty enthusiastic about the gallery tour and were giving their utmost attention to the tour guide. Until we appeared and distracted them with our ching-chong Chinese faces. They called out "hola, hola!", "buenos tardes!", "chao!" each time they trooped past us, and 2 little girls took turns to pose with me and photograph each other with a handphone camera. I'm not sure being asked to pose for a photo is a compliment, given that this was a gallery that glorified fat women. Or, maybe, amongst all the fat sculptures and fat-people paintings, I must have looked like a goddess. Yes, yes, I believe that was it...

The older students - girls all prettily made-up and wearing flashy earrings, were alot less excited about viewing Botero's artwork. They preferred to sun themselves in the courtyard, snap pictures of one another, nap or talk on their mobiles. Pity how we all go through this cynical it's-cool-to-be-bored stage at some point during our school days.

Bored with Botero

We embarked on a self-guided tour of the house. Within the first 10 minutes, we managed to embarass ourselves by venturing too near to the paintings, triggering the sensor and setting off the alarm. The security guard and other visitors had to tell us to move further away from the walls. So suaku right. Well, we cosied up to the sculptures, because unlike the precious paintings, the metal men and women weren't surrounded by sensors and welcomed us with open arms, if any.

Paying a courtesy call at Adam and Eve's. They weren't expecting visitors and thus weren't wearing their fig leaves (blush)

Dannie spying on Venus in her (naked) sleep

Botero seems to like depicting men on horses alot, so Dannie tried to model for him. The kids and other visitors seemed to find his pose very amusing.

Photo taken by Dannie (obviously) who was very amused at how such a tiny leaf was all that was needed to give this beefy torso a little privacy.

Botero's pieces are all given very simple titles: Mujer en el Bano (Woman In The Bathroom), La Chica (Girl), Cebeza y Hombros de la Mujer (Head and Shoulders of a Woman), Hombre a Caballo (Man on Horse), etc. Our visit was quite timely actually. Alot of the titles were basically just descriptions of the parts of the human body depicted in the paintings. We had just learnt the names for the parts of the body in Spanish that very morning, so we could could read all the painting titles (no English translation)! Gee, I knew what la cebeza and los hombros were!

Don't hope for any in-depth critique of Botero's works here. All I can say is that I like Botero's style of drawing and painting very much. His work has a very soft and full quality to it - in his depiction of fruits, animals, buildings, rooms, scenery, and people. In my simplistic interpretation of his work, I would say that what he's trying to express in his subjects is the fullness of life?

Dannie obviously not agreeing with my "fullness of life" interpretation when it came to this horse's life-giving abilities

At the end of it all, it was a pretty enjoyable way to spend the afternoon. And I can safely say that this won't be our last visit to an art museum (as long as the others over South America remain free.) Who knows, this may just be the start of a new interest in art.

As the saying goes, it ain't over until the fat lady (not me) sings.

Not quite achieving a successful impression of that famous mysterious smile

PS. Botero's Pajaro (bird) sculpture in the gallery was the size of a chicken. Many times smaller than the one in Singapore and the two in his hometown, Medellin.


Stephanie said...


Honyi said...

lucky you - i love botero's works! prefer his paintings though, except the ones with the moustachioed ladies haha!

Yi Lin said...

His paintings of fat people actually scared me into believing that that's what I will look like if I eat too much and don't exercise. Although I don't think that was Botero's intention at all...

lint said...

OMG my thighs look like the sculptures'!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! and har har your poses are funny. and the 'yes, yes....'line reminds me of something MR BURN would say!!! (no, no, i wasn't referring to our second uncle...)

Yi Lin said...

Haha, so Botero was SO thinking of you when he drew, painted and sculpted. Yes.. yes... *drum fingers together*

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