Rodrigo Arenas Betancourt (23 October 1919 – 14 May 1995) was a Colombian sculptor. At the time of his death in 1995 he was recognized as one of the most important sculptors in Colombia and Latin America. Most of the main cities in Colombia have statues sculpted by Arenas.
Recognized for his monumentalist work, in which he expresses his desire to highlight the epics of the Colombian people and the characters that have shaped the nation’s culture, Rodrigo Arenas Betancourt studied at the Instituto de Bellas Artes de Medellín, at the Escuela de Bellas Artes from the National University of Bogotá, at the Academia de San Carlos de México, at the Asociación Libre de Arte La Esmeralda de México and made multiple study trips throughout the American continent and Europe.
He carry out various trades and jobs. As a child he was a farmer, later, in his town and in many places in America and Europe, he was a Christ carver, postman, image maker, assistant and worker of sculptors and muralists like Pedro Nel Gómez; set design assistant at Estudios Azteca de México; teacher, professor, collaborator, reporter and writer of national and foreign magazines; architectural photographer and, mainly, sculptor.
He had his workshop in the municipality of Caldas, south of Medellín, where he worked in the company of assistants and apprentices. Arenas Betancourt was an artistic advisor to the University of Antioquia, Minister Counselor of the Embassy of Colombia to the government of Italy, founder and professor of the Escuela de Artesanías Ciudadela de México. He handled multiple artistic techniques such as drawing, portraiture, self-portraiture and watercolor. He used hard and soft materials, but the versatility and malleability of cement allowed him to venture into polychrome plaster, gypsum paste with sugar, iron, wood, stone, bronze, concrete and basalt.
Since the 1950s, Arenas Betancourt has dedicated her life to working on monumental sculptures commissioned by the government or the country’s large companies. Today many of them are reference points and identity of cities.
In Colombia and Mexico they have been located in squares, parks, towns and universities. The main ones are: The Wounded Macaw (1959), 2.50 meters high, a concrete sculpture found in Cuernavaca (Mexico); the monumental heads of the heroes of the Mexican Revolution: Moreno, Hidalgo, Juárez and Zapata (1959), located in different places; Bolívar Nude (1956-1962), a bronze work of 10 meters high, located in the Plaza Bolívar de Pereira; Tribute to General José María Córdova (1957-1964), in the main square of Rionegro (Antioquia); Long journey from the belly to the heart of fire (1964-1966) in the Beneficencia de Antioquia building; Cristo Prometeo (1965-1968), 6 meters high, located at the University of Antioquia; Prometheus (1968-1970), in bronze and concrete, 18 meters high, located in the square of the same university and converted into its emblem; Monument to the Lancers, commemorating the battle of the Pantano de Vargas (1968-1971), 33 meters high, located in Paipa (Boyacá); and Las Bananeras (1974-1978), a memorial monument to the 1928 massacre in Santa Marta, located in Ciénaga (Magdalena).
Rodrigo Arenas Betancourt participated in individual and group exhibitions in Spain, France, the United States, Mexico, Colombia and several countries in America. He was the winner of the National Plastic Arts Award of Colombia in 1975 awarded by Colcultura. The main literary works of him are the autobiographical stories Chronicles of wandering, love and death and The steps of the condemned.