Wherefore art thou art? (And other things I don’t really understand)

Anytime a government has a bit of fiscal belt-tightening to do, you can be pretty sure the arts will be first into the firing line.

Somehow more frivolous than health and education, it’s an area that isn’t pitched as vital to a country’s survival, and only really assists with progress in a peripheral sort of a way.

Back home, we even let All-Ireland winner Jimmy Deenihan be arts minister for three years.

Jimmy Deenihan, arting his brains out

Jimmy Deenihan, arting his brains out

Earlier this week I was taking a look around the Museo de Antioquia, the major art museum here in Medellín.

I was having a difficult time getting my head around a lot of the paintings and sculptures, because the little descriptions that you normally find in museums telling you that the artist was taking a lot of downers when he drew the camel in the bath were missing.

It was tricky.

But then I got to these paintings by this guy called Fernando Botero, and they came with a few more details, especially one he had about notable drug trafficker and Paul Simon-if-he-was-a-fat-man lookalike Pablo Escobar.

pablo escobar

Fernando Botero’s ‘The Death of Pablo Escobar’

For anyone who hasn’t seen Netflix series Narcos, Pablo Escobar grew up in Medellín and based his drug empire here – making it one of the most dangerous cities in the world during the 1980s and 1990s.

This isn’t verbatim, but the description on the wall of the museum said something like this:

‘Through his art, Botero has allowed the people of Medellín to deal with a part of their history they can’t ignore, without allowing it to overshadow the growth and progress of the city moving forward.’

That’s a tall order for anything, but somehow it seemed quite fitting, and I didn’t feel overestimated the impact of this painting of a dead drug dealer.

Especially considering the fact that this Botero guy is still doing the rounds and donated it to the museum where it is free to view for the people of Medellín.

He probably could have flogged it to a Russian oligarch or something and bought a holiday home in Benidorm.

Fernando Botero

Fernando Botero

Sorry, that’s all a bit sombre! This is mostly supposed to be about me stepping on open manhole covers.

Another thing I did in the past few days was go to a Spanish language adaptation of MacBeth that was supposed to work as a retelling Mexico’s history.

It was being performed by this theatre company that are staying in the hostel where I am staying, so I went along mostly out of politeness.

It was good though, even though I didn’t actually understand any of it.

They had a live chicken on stage, so that put people on edge, especially because the audience were all sitting on stage level with the actors.

Then they had a bit where they were chucking knives to each other right next to a few audience members.

At the end – get this – in a Late Late Show-esque flurry of generosity they dished out free booze to everyone in the audience.

Abbey Theatre (or whoever), sit up and take note.


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