If you want to see Fernando Botero’s art for free in Barcelona, head for the Rambla del Raval, where it’s clear his sculpture now belongs to the people. This ponderous tomcat’s Cheshire smile acts as a magnet of Columbian charm, inviting both adults and kids from the neighbourhood to swarm all over his heavy form.
Sited in what is probably Barcelona’s most multicultural “barrio”, the sculpture is a hit with Romani, Pakistani, Moroccan, Latin American, European… all the many nationalities who share the neighbourhood and define its unique character. It’s almost impossible to see or photograph this gentle giant without one or two children hanging from his whiskers, or simply standing gazing in awe. People approach and start to grin—he has that effect: comfortable, confident, self-satisfied. A typical tom.
The sculpture has firmly claimed this space where it interacts well, but it’s taken this alley cat a while to find his turf. While not yet old, he’s been around. Purchased by the Barcelona City Council in 1987, he was sited in three other spots around Barcelona—Parc de la Ciutdella, the Olympic Stadium during the ’92 Games and lately the Plaça de Blanquerna, where he seemed to moulder in a rubbish-strewn corner—before he was resettled here.
If you pause after arriving or before leaving Barcelona airport —the T2 Terminal— you can see another of Botero’s works, a similarly huge and powerful horse, also in the heavy, rounded stylisation which predominates in his figuration, both painting and sculptural. According to the Columbian artist, “art is deformation”. His sculptures shake our conception of size while they redefine for us the spaces they inhabit, encouraging us to appreciate them afresh.
Cat by Fernando Botero, 1987. Rambla del Raval, el Raval.