Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos said Wednesday that the 479 works of art donated by Fernando Botero to the state were part of the country’s national heritage.
“The resolution that was signed means that all these works are from this moment a part of a legacy in which the nation is commited to their care, to maintain them and in a certain way make them known to the whole world,” said the leader.
The paintings in question currently reside at the National Museum of Colombia, the Bank of the Republic’s Botero Museum in Bogota, the Antioquia Museum, and in throughout the artist’s home city Medellin and the historical tourist hotspot Cartagena.
Santos said the government would also maintain the legacy of Botero’s works by including their study in the school national curriculum.
The state will attempt to “connect our children with the wonderful works of Fernando Botero, those who grow up with these works and will draw inspiration from these works,” he said.
Santos made the announcement to Botero in front of press at the Presidential Palace, intended as a tribute to the self-titled “most Colombian of Colombian artists”on the day before his birthday.
“I think this is the tribute we wanted. Very simple, but from the bottom of the hearts of 46 million Colombians […] Thank you very much for everything you have done for this country.”
“You have contributed to culture but above all to the good name of Colombia,” he added.
In response to the accolade, Botero said, “The greatest honor I can have is to declare my work a national asset […] this very important to me.”
The artist celebrated his 80th birthday Wednesday, and as such people have been clamoring to give their praise for the artist, who was born in Medellin in 1932.
Ana Maria Escallon an art critic for Spanish news agency EFE, said of the artist, “Botero means glory, success, international recognition (…) the winner of an entire generation.”
For Escallon, Botero represents a side of Colombia seldom seen.
The artist is “the Colombia that internationally no one knows — the painting, art and culture, and without guerrillas, though he may paint them,” she said.
Colombian salon artist Ana Mercedes Hoyos gave a short tribute in newspaper El Espectador, writing “Dear Fernando: you are a symbol of the Americas. I wish you well-deserved success and many more years of life.”
Colombian sculptor Hugo Zapata said, “Botero has a way of seeing the world, and that alone is a teaching. He occupies a place in world art and in the hearts of Colombians.”