One of the things that I miss the most about living in the Bay Area is the enormous amounts of culture that I could easily access. Case it point, Fernando Botero’s Abu Ghraib collection, currently on display at UCB’s Doe library, right where I used to work! From what I’ve read about this collection, Botero first learned about the atrocities occurring in this prison from the news, just like the rest of us; he was deeply disturbed and moved to “say” something about the matter. He commented that art has an important role in times of war, giving the example that while many of us do not know the details about the many battles fought during WWII, all of us who have seen Picasso’s Guernica still have that image engraved in our minds. Botero hopes that his work on Abu Ghraib will be remembered in the same way.

It was also interesting to hear that Botero offered this exhibition to a lot of galleries, both public and private, and with the exception of the Marlborough gallery in NYC and now UCB, no one else will display it. Yet Botero is so committed to showing this disturbing reality that he has offered to give away the collection to any gallery that is willing to permanently display at least a few of his drawings. He also commented that it should really stay in either the USA or in Iraq, since these are the two communities most deeply affected by the mater.

UCB Center for Latin America Studies has two webcasts on the event; one of them is “A Conversation with the Artists,” an hour long interview with Botero. The second one is titled “Art and Violence,” and runs close to a 1:45mins. Both can be accessed here.