The works of renowned Colombian artist Fernando Botero, 82, will be exhibited at Art Stage Singapore. The premier contemporary art fair opens to the public at the Marina Bay Sands Exhibition and Convention Centre from Thursday till Sunday. Botero, best known for his voluminous, exaggerated sculptures that depict everyday life, will not be physically present, but here are five things to know about him.
1. His Bird sculpture at United Overseas Bank (UOB) Plaza
Most Singaporeans have probably seen or taken a picture with the fat, squat, bronze Bird sculpture at UOB Plaza near Raffles Place, along the Singapore River. It was inaugurated in 1990, and represents the joy of living and the power of optimism. Fun fact: It has also been used for shoots for Indian movies. Over at the St Regis Hotel, his Dancing Nude Couple stands outside the John Jacob Ballroom on Level 1U, while the Reclining Woman piece sits at the hotel's entrance.
2. His rotund, Rubenesque nude figures are all about the bass
Most of his figures exceed 3m in height and weigh in at about 1,000kg. For example, visitors to Art Stage will be greeted by his 3.5m-tall Standing Woman bronze sculpture in the public foyer. Other works on display inside include smaller-sized marble sculptures and oil on canvas paintings.
3. Botero has long enjoyed popularity in Asia
In 2004, over 600 people turned up for a pop-up exhibition of his works at a Keppel Road warehouse. Mr Dick Chia, managing director of arts handling firm Helutrans, which handled the exhibition, said: " I learnt an important lesson that night - that people will go anywhere to see good art." More recently, a Malaysian collector snapped up his Quartero painting for US$1.3million (S$1.7million) at the Art Basel fair in Hong Kong.
4. Botero is one of the most celebrated Latin American artists
He is up there with the likes of his fellow countryman and author, the late Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Botero is also one of the world's wealthiest artists, with his paintings and sculptures having sold for millions and in the collections of more than 50 museums. The octogenarian, now married to his third wife, Greek sculptor Sophia Vari, owns homes in Monaco, Italy, Greece, Colombia and France, where he now lives.
5. Botero has deployed his paintbrush to highlight darker issues
While he is best known for his wildly corpulent and comical sculptures, Botero's works also highlight darker issues such as the guerilla drug wars that have roiled his homeland, and war violence inflicted on Abu Ghraib prisoners by American soldiers in Iraq. He has previously said in an interview with The New York Times: "This is a hope of mine that they will be a testimonial to a terrible moment, a time of insanity in this country. They are works that will hang in a museum, so people can see their history."
Art Stage Singapore takes place from Thursday to Sunday at Marina Bay Sands. Tickets from $10 (concession group ticket) to $64 (for a four-day pass) are available from Sistic (www.sistic.com.sg).