Standing majestically in the drawing room of the St Regis Kuala Lumpur is a gargantuan bronze sculpture of a horse. Made by acclaimed Colombian artist Fernando Botero, the piece is the largest he has ever made, weighing a whopping 2.5 tonnes.
“I would say one of my favourite pieces of all time is this monumental sculpture at the St Regis, because it’s the largest one, it’s the most powerful one and it’s a symbol that is universal,” said Fernando Botero Jr, the artist’s eldest son.
Botero Jr was in KL to deliver a talk on his father’s life and work, discussing the seminal events in his life that catapulted him to international adulation.
The event was organised and attended by Tan Sri Chua Ma Yu, chairman of ONE IFC, the developer and owner of The St Regis KL, as well as his wife Puan Sri Sharon Chua, daughter Carmen Chua and husband Quek Kon Sean, and sons Chua Sai Men and Chua Ray Men.
Also in attendance were the Japanese ambassador HE Dr Makio Miyagawa and his wife.
Botero, now 86, is a globally renowned artist whose output has inspired more than 250 written works and numerous documentaries and films, including one that is currently being produced by Netflix.
Botero’s signature style is typified by a penchant for exaggeration. “Before 1956, he was not Botero. His style changed after 1956,” says Botero Jr referring to a serendipitous work of art involving a guitarron (a very large guitar) that inspired Botero’s style, now universally known as Boterismo.
Botero Jr himself is no slouch, having served as the Colombian Defence Minister for a period in the 1990s, with an educational background that includes Ivy League institutions like Harvard.
His talk on his father’s work was insightful and delivered fluidly, clearly the result of having had the privilege of seeing the artist at work.
“His creative process is based on sketches,” he said. “He chooses a sketch and works very rapidly and that’s where the creative energy is expressed. Then he starts to polish the painting and it can take several months or several years to polish a painting, because he might work on it for a couple of days and then not work on it for six months or a year and then continue his work.”
Botero Jr also revealed that his father is extremely critical of his own work and will not tolerate something he deems not good enough. “I’ve witnessed my father burning his paintings many times! If he’s not 100% satisfied, he will destroy the painting,” he said.
Following the illuminating conversation on art, the Chua family, Botero Jr and Miyagawa and his wife headed to the St. Regis KL’s vaunted Japanese restaurant Ginza Tenkuni for a masterfully-prepared kaiseki dinner, with choice produce flown in from Japan.
Highlights from the meal included the rice gohan, a Fukahire style egg custard with rice, which was sumptuous, delicate and almost satin-like in texture. Another favourite was the eel with Japanese yam, with perfectly cooked eel and a pliable, slightly sweet yam stealing the show.
“Wonderful, just wonderful!” enthused Botero Jr, as each course was polished off with gusto. And as the night drew to a close, the Chua family and Botero Jr exchanged gifts and said their goodbyes, all expressing admiration for the work of the great artist.
As Botero Jr said just before he left, “I hope his legacy will be widely disseminated so millions of people will be able to enjoy his work and that his art will be immortal and will be appreciated for hundreds of years to come.”