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Artist Fernando Botero
Artist Fernando Botero at the opening of his exhibition “Via Crucis: The Passion of Christ,” October 2011, Marlborough Gallery, New York

BOTERO'S PASSION OF CHRIST

Oct. 28, 2011

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The 79-year-old Columbian artist Fernando Botero, who lived in New York in the early 1960s but now makes his home in Pietrasanta, Italy, cut an  elegant figure at the opening of his new exhibition, “Via Crucis: The Passion of Christ,” at Marlborough Gallery on West 57th Street in Manhattan last night. Trim, tan and equipped with a pair of trendy, black-rimmed Moscot glasses, he noted that "for years in history, this was the only subject matter artists had to work with. I wanted to work with it, too, but to make it true for our contemporary world, and for myself.”

When asked whether he had set his pictures within a specific locale -- his vibrant, color-saturated tableaux are set against seemingly French cobblestones, Spanish terra-cotta, Italian palazzos and Brazilian favellas -- he hesitated a moment, searching for a word. "They have a Latin American soul," he said, "because that is what I know." Then, before the gallery had even begun to fill up, the artist retreated to the gallery’s back rooms, not to emerge again for the rest of the evening.

Botero’s embrace of the Passion extends from the Head of Christ and the Kiss of Judas to a Pieta and a Deposition via 27 oils and 34 drawings. The show’s headliner, Crucifixion (2011), features a Hulk-green Christ affixed to a cross in what is clearly Central Park, with an iconic New York City skyline in the background. Botero’s suffering, loin-clothed Christ is not haggard but plump and doughy, even despite his gaping wounds. In this, the show summons the memory of his last exhibition in New York, which took place in 2006 and featured works from Botero’s "Abu Ghraib" series.

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Fernando Botero, Entombment of Christ/ Entierro de Cristo, 2010, Marlborough Gallery, New York
Fernando Botero, Entombment of Christ/ Entierro de Cristo, 2010, Marlborough Gallery, New York