By Audrey Gillette
His uncle sent him to school to be a bull fighter at age 12, but he soon realized that was not his calling. Now 85, Colombia’s most famous artist, Fernando Botero, is still creating beautiful paintings and sculptures. His is the more commonly accepted fine art of Colombia, the art most visitors seek out. As travelers, we like to seek out the unusual and so we found ourselves on a free graffiti tour in downtown Bogota.
The less touristic parts of town, where political statements are more ‘appropriate’, we looked at a thought provoking mural painted by 4 different artists. The faces in the mural are homeless people, meant to signify the victims of a botched foreign aid initiative.
Not all street art or graffiti is political. The genius who painted this cat did not let the power pole or Stop sign get in the way. He painted them so that when you stand back to admire the work, they blend in.
Artists use a variety of ways to paint their images – paint brush, stencils, airbrush, and the original aerosol cans. Some consider the use of an airbrush cheating – believing the ‘purest’ form of street art is done with aerosol spray cans. This indigenous woman is airbrushed, the lion with aerosol – I consider them both beautiful art regardless of how they were created.
The new General in town has a different perspective on this type of art. His focus on maintaining and restoring the more ‘historic’ districts leaves no room for street art. This mural is scheduled to be painted over because he believes it does not fit with the historic building it adorns.
The street artists believe graffiti is actually an insurance for your building. An unspoken respect for the art discourages (rather than attracts) ugly tagging. I hope the General and the artists can come to an understanding so historic buildings are preserved and public art and expression continue.
At the end of the 2 ½ hour tour, I had a new appreciation for street art and graffiti, a better understanding of the history of the country and a new perspective on the recent politics. If you find yourself in Bogota, I highly recommend this tour. It was well worth our time.