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Curatorial Practices
Interview with Pilar Velilla: Director of Museum of Antioquia
by Beatriz Duque de Vallejo

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Reclining Woman

Roman Soldier


Cat with mime

Woman with Mirror

B.V.: The fact of having placed sculptures on the street represents a concept of art different from the traditional one. It is not a "closed" art any more, since the Museum reaches out to you and shares daily life with you. What importance does public art have, in your opinion?

P.V.: Botero insisted that the sculptures should be at sight level, handy, and even facing the risk of damage, he did not allow us to put them up one centimeter because he wanted his work to connect with the people. I love the Museum, I value it, but I think that from the point of view of the development of the city, the plaza is more important. We do not even need to write something on paper to justify its presence; it is enough just to stop and look at it for a second to notice how things have changed in this area in just one year, because changes in cities occur after a long time, and this one has been instantaneous. For example, when half the plaza was opened, ten minutes later it had been taken over by the people. And from then on there it is... every day. The plaza usually boasts its own mime actor, theatre players, Hare-Krishnas, speakers, living statues, and all kinds of people. It is hard to find a free bench.

B.V.: Undoubtedly, the peopleí­s response has been wonderful, but on the other hand it is very sad to notice the lack of respect with which some have treated Boteroí­s work: the woman with the mirror had her mirror stolen (which was later recovered), the dog had its moustache removed, and another one of the sculptures has a graffiti. Have you thought about doing some kind of campaign to educate people in that respect?

P.V.: We are paving the way, and we havení­t had any time or budget to change the peopleí­s way of thinking. I am not worried about the graffiti at all. Each time I tell Master Botero about them he says, "Doní­t tell me! In no other place in the world are my sculptures scribbled on!" And I always say, "I think you doní­t realize what you are doing for this city." You cannot ask people for what you have not given them, and the people from Antioquí­a and Colombia in general have been denied an education. So, what can our campaign be? To insist. We found the womaní­s mirror. The boy who stole it was paid four thousand pesos (one dollar eighty cents) because having a piece of Boteroí­s sculpture is not the same as having the sculpture, that is worth nothing, it is worth its weight in bronze. The Museum paid a million pesos to put it back. We will insist... I believe that the only way in which to learn to use something is using it. The day will come in which the people from Antioquí­a will love and protect their plaza. But how can I explain this to a boy who is a criminal, who was abandoned at birth, left on the street or mistreated, who never had the chance to go to school, who throughout his life has only been kicked — and how can I tell him, that suddenly he must love that sculpture, because it is part of his heritage, it belongs to him, and is there to serve him? How can this boy understand what I say? It is impossible. I know this will be hard, persistent, and patient work, not stopping even for one day teaching the people what this is for. The day will come, I trust in the people.

* This interview took place on February 7, 2002, in Medellin, Colombia.

-Beatriz Duque de Vallejo: Press Correspondent for Colombia

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