A Private Gift of Art to Inspire
The Wall Street Journal
December 29, 2000
Two years ago, artist Fernando Botero announced that he would
donate part of his personal art collection to his native Colombia. The
gift was to be divided between his hometown of Medellin and the
capital city of Bogotá. The Bogotá portion was entrusted to the care of
the Colombian Central Bank.
The November opening of the Bogota collection, at the new Casa
Donación Botero, was one of the most important cultural events in
Colombia in quite some time. It includes more than one hundred
paintings, drawings and sculptures by 19th and 20th century masters,
as well as over 100 pieces by the artist himself. It is arguably one of
the most important art collections in Latin America.
Major art donations are highly unusual in Latin America, where
traditionally there is a very limited culture of giving. Indeed, most Latin
American universities, research institutions and museums have been
largely unsuccessful in attracting major gifts from wealthy individuals.
Traditionally, fortunes in the region are not made in one generation;
they are inherited and passed on. This, the result of a highly controlled
economic system where business opportunities have historically
depended on connections and privileges, discourages wealthy families
from giving of their patrimony to worthy causes. The emphasis on
redistributive over growth policies has generated a sense of economic
insecurity that inhibits philanthropy. Moreover, heavy government
involvement in all aspects of society encourages “free riding,” with
individuals at every income level coming to expect that the public
sector should cater to an array of their “needs”, including the arts.
In recent years, however, things have started to change, and Mr.
Botero has joined a small group of philanthropists that include the
Argentine industrialist Gregorio Perez Companc.
Mr. Botero is among the most well known Latin American artists of
the last 50 years. Overweigh