Fernando Botero (Colombian b. 1932)
Property from a Distinguished Midwestern Collection
Fernando Botero (Colombian b. 1932)

Dancing Couple

Fernando Botero (Colombian b. 1932)
Dancing Couple
signed and dated 'Botero 82' (lower right)
oil on canvas
59 x 42 3/8 in. (150 x 107.6 cm.)
Painted in 1982.
Aberbach Fine Art, New York.
Acquired from the above (September 1983).
Sale room notice
Please note this work is sold with a photo-certificate of authenticity signed by the artist.

Lot Essay

Like many of his paintings from the 1980s that show people at leisure, Botero's dancing couples appear in a variety of places including dance halls, outdoor fairs, bars, and other social spaces. Other works in this grouping include musicians, card players, and people smoking, eating, drinking or partaking of the landscape.

This grouping is typical of Botero's imagery, which often draws from popular culture and magnifies the figure not only physically but also as an image in itself. The paintings of dancers transform the couples into icons and emphasize the clear movements that imply tango or other popular dance forms. Dances, in particular, have been used in visual art in many countries as signifiers of cultural identity. In Medellín, Botero's birthplace, the tango has an important trajectory, as Medellín is also the place where Carlos Gardel tragically died in 1935. This history has inspired a particular affection for the tango, which seems to be the dance presented in this painting. The angle of the woman's bent leg, the placement of her left leg between his legs, and her hand on his shoulder, with its back visible to the viewer and even the motion in her hair, would imply the precision movements, intricate positions and speed of the tango. Like the tango, other dance rhythms in Colombia have developed from varied and sometimes fused sources, including African and Andean rhythms, marking the character of a dance as a reflection of the larger developments of cultural history and social realities. Botero understands the significance of the dance as a cultural symbol and the relationship created by the figures in a dance and continues to use it as an important subject.

In this case, the couple is so intent on their movements they barely notice that the floor of the bar is strewn with empty bottles and cigarette butts. The closeness of the space is underscored by the tightness of the surroundings, the proximity of another dancing foot in the immediate background, and by the precariousness of an elbow near a glass full of beer. The height of the male figure is emphasized by the petite stature of his dance partner, her blonde locks flowing to the middle of her partly-bare back. The strident gestures of the dance take up the entire space of the picture, with hands, feet and corpulent movement filling the canvas.

Equally important, however, is the significant look that is exchanged by the male dancer and a woman who looks out longingly from the doorway in the rear of the space. Momentarily, their eyes lock together and are held there in the eternity of the painting. His shorter partner stares up at him, but her gaze remains unmet.

Like other paintings from the dancers genre, this couple also seems to occupy a specific time and place, held there by their clothing, hairstyles, makeup and gestures. The women who appear among Botero's dancing scenes all wear dresses of a particular length, some with delicate floral patterns, ruffles, and cuts that imply a bygone era. The details of the surroundings presented here, in combination with the specific characteristics of the figures creates an environment in which the scents of smoke, beer, perfume, and perspiration combine endlessly with music and movement.

Rocío Aranda-Alvarado, Associate Curator, El Museo del Barrio, New York

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