A collection of work by Colombian artist Fernando Botero about Abu Ghraib may be permanently housed at the University of California, Berkeley.
The controversial images were shown at the university last winter and Botero has offered to donate all of them — 25 paintings and 22 drawings of bound, bloodied and blindfolded naked prisoners. They’re based on the photographs and stories of Iraqi prisoners tortured by U.S. soldiers at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
UC Berkeley Chancellor Dr. Robert Birgeneau has tentatively agreed to accept the gift, the monetary value of which experts peg at $10 million to $15 million.
“We have a gentleman’s agreement,” says Birgeneau, who saw the works when the exhibition opened at Cal’s Doe Library in January and was impressed by “their emotional impact and technical brilliance. I’ve written the artist saying we’ll accept them, subject to us being able to work out a reasonable set of conditions.”
Botero, who says he would never sell the jarring Abu Ghraib pictures, turned down an offer from the Kunsthalle Wurth museum near Stuttgart, Germany, to build a wing to house them.
“I think they should be here in the United States or in Baghdad,” Botero told the San Francisco Chronicle art critic Kenneth Baker on the eve of the Berkeley show, which drew about 15,000 people over two months and inspired lectures and panels around campus on torture, human rights, terrorism and art. The works are now on view in a Botero retrospective in Milan and will tour for two years.
— Associated Press
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