Botero and Berkeley: Abu Ghraib Paintings Donated to Center for Latin American Studies

After reading Seymour Hersh's investigative reports on the torture and abuse perpetrated on prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, Fernando Botero was inspired to create some intensely grotesque drawings and paintings – in what would become a series of 56 works – that would make visible the invisible pain and humiliation of those prisoners.

Controversial as these Abu Ghraib pieces were in exhibitions abroad, the UC Berkeley Center for Latin American Studies was the only public museum or gallery in the U.S. that was willing to show them, continuing in the campus' long legacy of critical political engagement. The exhibit opened in January 2007 to enthusiastic crowds and discussions, moving Botero to grant the Abu Ghraib series to the permanent collection of the Berkeley Art Museum (BAM) where it now resides.

In 2012, BAM collaborated with El Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos in Santiago, Chile to mount a traveling exhibit of the pieces alongside a schedule of thought provoking discussions and other events. This video follows the efforts to create that exhibit and explores the creative, cultural and political challenges that surfaced throughout that process.