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Circus Act

Circus Act
signed and dated 'Botero, 07' (lower right)
oil on canvas
32 ¾ x 44 1⁄8 in. (83.2 x 112.1 cm.)
Painted in 2007.
Galerie Gmurzynska, Zurich.
Private collection, Austria.
Sale; Christie's, Paris, 30 June 2020, lot 49.
Galería Duque Arango, Medellín, Colombia (acquired from the above sale).
Private collection, Colombia.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
K. Gmurzynska, Fernando Botero, 2013, p. 69 (illustrated in color).
Zurich, Galerie Gmurzynska, Fernando Botero: The Circus, 2 October-31 May 2009, p. 83 (illustrated in color).
Medellín, Colombia, Galería Duque Arango, Fernando Botero, Six Decades, 22 October-19 November 2020.
Medellín, Colombia, Galería Duque Arango, Botero: More than Volume, 15 June-20 July 2023, pp. 29 and 64 (illustrated in color).

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Lot Essay

"The circus allows one to be logical and unreal at the same time. In the circus, all is possible: there can be a man with two heads or a character with a green face." - Fernando Botero

Fernando Botero discovered his passion for the circus in 2006, on a trip to Zihuatanejo, a small Mexican town: “There is something in the background of the circus that is also very attractive. I went to see a circus in Mexico, and I had the chance to meet these people… and I was fascinated by the possibilities and the poetry of the subject” (Fernando Botero in The Circus Series, Galerie Gmurzynska, Zurich, interviewed by vernissage TV). This travelling troupe brought back memories of his childhood in Medellín, and this fascination inspired him to create a whole series of very personal paintings imbued with that world. Jugglers, acrobats, animal trainers, colorful costumes: rotund, jolly forms with, beneath the surface, a palpable melancholy. This series, which he began in 2007, presented a whole world of color, filled with the monumental and exaggerated forms that characterized the artist's work.

The circus has a long tradition in art history, and Botero was preceded by many great masters who were drawn to its great pictorial potential: Seurat, Picasso, Calder, Chagall, and Léger – to name only the most famous – have dignified this world, in some cases with a realist approach, and in others with an allegorical or symbolic treatment. The circus certainly offers artists a rich seam of possibilities for studies, not only in terms of the colors and extraordinary body movements, but also the philosophy of life that accompanies this world.

In Circus Act, a voluptuous rider performs contortions on her horse, almost to the point of falling, determined not to let any emotion show in her act despite its bizarreness. As in the artist's best works, the viewer can barely believe their eyes as they takes in this spectacle and the disproportion between the rider’s feat and her impassive demeanor. There is a fondness in Botero’s depiction of this character, reflected in the way her rotundity and bright colors fill the canvas.

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