Fernando Botero - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Thursday, May 16, 2019 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    James Goodman Gallery, New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    New York, Marlborough Gallery, Inc., Fernando Botero: Recent Sculpture, October 18 - November 24, 1990, no. 25, p. 51 (another example exhibited and illustrated, p. 50)

  • Catalogue Essay

    “What I am interested in is form—gentle, round surfaces, which emphasize the sensuousness of my work.” –Fernando Botero

    Fernando Botero’s The Lovers, 1989 shows the titular figures, naked and entwined. Relaxed, contented and immersed in their own intimate world, Botero has captured their forms using the bulbous, exaggerated scale for which he has become so well-known. Indeed, his figures are instantly recognizable—all the more so as his sculptures in particular have been exhibited throughout the world, from Paris to Florence, Jerusalem to Santiago de Chile. Yet this universality remains anchored in a very Latin American consciousness. Botero has explained that his art may appeal widely, but only because it is based on such strong roots. In The Lovers, the moustache of the male figure links him to other figures who appear in Botero’s works, often inspired by the figures of his native city Medellín.

    In a sense, it is in his sculptures such as The Lovers that Botero’s self-proclaimed status as a “post-abstract realist” can be best perceived. Rooted in an overtly figurative style, Botero transforms his subjects by tampering with their scale. In the case of The Lovers, this transformation is particularly striking, as their naked forms serve as a perfect foil for his explorations of the exaggerated volumetric depiction of the human figure. At once stylized and naturalistic, their bodies and faces are translated into a mass of ripples and humps, a human topography. The keen sense of observation and humanity that lies at the heart of so much of Botero’s work is especially evident in the central seam of the sculpture, where the limbs of the two lovers weave and overlap. In this, the intertwining cylinders of bronze take on an almost abstract quality, zigging and zagging, darting from side to side, introducing a fascinating dynamism between the bulks of the two forms. At the same time, they speak eloquently of the attachment and intimacy between these characters.

    It was over three decades before The Lovers was conceived that Botero enjoyed the realization that lies at the heart of so many of his most recognizable works. It was in the mid-1950s that Botero had begun to see the artistic potential of disrupting the sense of scale found in the surrounding world. This had initially come about when he had been painting a still-life of a mandolin: he had realized that, by shrinking the size of the aperture in the instrument’s surface, he could tamper with its entire sense of scale, lending it a new, distorted monumentality. Soon afterwards, he began to explore this in a number of other subject matters, playing with scale through inflation, an idiosyncratic motif that has become synonymous with the artist. A constant in Botero’s paintings from that point onwards, it was only in the early 1960s that he began exploring its potentiality in sculpture, the investigation ultimately leading to works such as The Lovers.

    Experimenting with sculpture for a number of years prior to this, it was in the 1970s that he truly began to discover the medium’s potential when wedded to his own unique aesthetic. He became so fascinated with the results of the sculptures he created after moving to Paris from New York in 1973 that for a couple of years—1976 and 1977—he essentially abandoned painting, focusing solely on the plastic arts. In the early 1980s, this new-found enthusiasm for sculpture saw him acquire two buildings in Pietrasanta, Tuscany, positioning him near the marble quarries used by Michelangelo, and a number of the world’s best bronze foundries, which had sprung up around the quarry. It is in the foundries of Pietrasanta that artists as diverse as Henry Moore, Joan Miró and Jeff Koons have had their works cast. Botero still today divides his time between his main homes in Paris and Pietrasanta, devoting himself to sculpture while in the latter. This reveals the way in which Botero’s works are underpinned by a conscious communion with the Old Masters of Renaissance Italy. It was, after all, during his time in Florence in the 1950s when he had begun to consolidate his style, abandoning the fireworks of conspicuously and self-consciously avant-garde painting in order to create works that conveyed a sense of form, volume and figure.

    Working in that same classical sculptural tradition as his predecessors, Botero initially creates a clay maquette that is then scaled up in plaster, followed by the creation of a cast used to ultimately render his model in bronze. Botero’s attention to detail can be perceived in The Lovers and its fellow sculptures in the deep resonance of its patina, one which accentuates the sensuality of the curves of his figures. They are granted an emphatic physicality, bursting with life and the raw power of existence. “By being inflated, Botero’s characters and objects become light and serene, achieving a primordial and innocuous state”, wrote the author Mario Vargas Llosa, in words that could apply to The Lovers. “At the same time, they become still. Immobility descends on them like Lot’s wife, when she succumbed to curiosity and looked back” (Mario Vargas Llosa, Fernando Botero: Celebración/Celebration, exh. cat., Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao, Bilbao, 2012, p. 25).

  • Artist Biography

    Fernando Botero

    Colombian • 1932

    Colombian artist Fernando Botero is known for his voluptuous and exaggerated paintings, sculptures and drawings. He studied under Roberto Longhi, a renowned authority on Italian Renaissance and Baroque art, obtaining a remarkable art historical knowledge of Western Classicism. This dialogue between an erudite education and religious art for the masses is the key in the development of his aesthetic.

    Botero was also influenced by Mexican muralism, with which he became acquainted while living in Mexico City. The monumental scale of the human forms in the murals gave rise to the voluminous figures for which he is best known. Botero's works make mordant comments on society's shortcomings; they also incorporate classical elements and are imbued with political satire and caricature.

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Property from the Miles and Shirley Fiterman Collection


The Lovers

incised with the artist's signature and number "Botero 6/6" and stamped with the Fonderia M Italy foundry mark on the top of the base
bronze with brown patina
25 1/4 x 52 x 32 3/8 in. (64.1 x 132.1 x 82.2 cm.)
Executed in 1989, this work is number 6 from an edition of 6 plus 2 artist's proofs.

$450,000 - 550,000 

Sold for $524,000

Contact Specialist
Amanda Lo Iacono
Head of Evening Sale
New York
+1 212 940 1278

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 16 May | On View at 432 and 450 Park Avenue