MEDELLIN, Colombia — Famed Colombian artist Fernando Botero donated his sculpture "The Cat" to his hometown of Medellin Monday as the city prepares to celebrate his 80th birthday on April 19.
"Enjoy it," Botero said as he unveiled the sculpture at the entrance of the public library that bears his name in the outskirts of the city.
The painter, sculptor and teacher, accompanied by his wife Sofia Vari, was honored by hundreds of schoolchildren dressed in traditional costumes.
"The Cat" is a bronze sculpture weighing more than one ton cast in Botero's workshop in Pietra Santa, Italy.
It joins other monumental sculptures by Botero in open areas of Medellin, such as "The House," "Bird," "Maternity" and "Sphinx."
During one of his rare visits to Medellin, Botero headed to the Museum of Antioquia, where 27 of his oil paintings and 23 of his drawings are displayed for the first time in an exhibition entitled "Stations of the Cross."
The exhibition, which opens Tuesday, depicts the final hours of Jesus Christ before his crucifixion and death.
Botero displayed the Stations of the Cross last October in New York, which marked his return to the city's museums after an exhibition five years earlier on the mistreatment of prisoners in the US-run Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
The Stations of the Cross is scheduled to be displayed in Colombia until August before going on tour in Europe.
"For me, it is a pleasure to come back here to my land with these pictures," Botero said at a press conference Sunday at the museum. "This exhibition coincides with this birthday of mine, which is obviously important and dramatic."
He described the Stations of the Cross pictures as reflecting "the eyes of a modern artist, which allows certain freedoms, such as including yourself or your mother in the works."
Botero's artistic style is characterized by chubby, puffed up human figures.
He first exhibited when he was 19 years old in Bogota's Leo Matiz Gallery.
A museum that bears his name in Bogota displays some of Botero's works from his personal collection, which he donated in exchange for a pledge of free public access to the permanent galleries.
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