Earlier this month I got the surprise go-ahead to call Fernando Botero, one of the world's foremost contemporary artists and the man behind a much-buzzed-about exhibit opening this week at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. He was working on a European island, and in a forwarded e-mail, Botero explained that I would need to have patience — the maids only spoke Greek.
Without giving it a second thought, I dialed. A woman answered, and we carried on two one-sided conversations. Eventually, she just hung up.
My editor and I promptly looked up some Greek phrases online and put together a sloppy, but cheerful greeting. Kalispera. Fernando Botero, parakalo. (Good evening. Fernando Botero, please.)
The call lasted a little longer this time, but the woman hung up again. Was this even the right number? Was she trying to say Botero wasn't in? How much longer could I test her patience?
A little later, I tried again and a man with a deep voice answered. And suddenly there I was, speaking to the artist himself, admittedly quite humbled and nervous. In our conversation that followed, through an awful phone connection, Botero showed not only patience, but graciousness, offering thoughtful replies to my queries.
Find out what he had to say — with less effort, I hope — starting on p. 14.