Alighiero Boetti - Contemporary Art Part I New York Wednesday, May 11, 2011 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Steve O'Hana, Geneva

  • Exhibited

    Paris, Tornabuoni Art, Alighiero & Boetti, March – June, 2009

  • Literature

    A. Sauzeau-Boetti, Alighiero & Boetti, Catalogue d’exposition, March 19 – June 5, 2010

  • Catalogue Essay

    To my mind, the work of the embroidered map represents the supreme beauty. For these works, I made nothing, selected nothing in the sense that the world is made the way it is and I have not drawn it; the flags are those that exist anyway, I did not draw them; all in all, I have made absolutely nothing. Once the basic idea is there, the concept, then everything else is already chosen.

    ALIGHIERO BOETTI

    (Alighiero Boetti quoted in Gagosian Gallery, ed., Aligheiro e Boetti, New York, 2001, p. 25)

    Alighiero Boetti, working from his studio in Rome, designed tapestries such as the present lot, Mappa (planisphère), 1983, that present beautiful and intricate varieties of layer upon layer of silk threads, color and, political geography. The artist employed local Afghan women to embroider the fabrics, and their deliberate workings appear throughout this piece, broadening the spectrum of texture and association. In this case, the individual hands of the artisans at work lay bare the unique history of the fabrication process of the composition as a whole. They are a collage of infinite changing patterns of our global structure.

    Alighiero Boetti was an autodidact. Following his first exhibition in 1967, Boetti become synonymous with the Arte Povera movement, a term coined by the art critic Germano Celant to describe, in one part, art which takes its form from our raw materials at hand. Boetti was interested in the influence of philosophy and alchemy on the
    world, and the interplay of the connected traditions of the West and East in modern day. He sought out an art form which by technique erased his own hand in the production, although it is his very concept which creates the alluring testimony to the unique time
    and place from which they derive.

    Among the most widely known works by Alighiero Boetti are the embroidered maps of the world, from which the present lot is an outstanding example. They derive from conceptual drawings created between 1967 and 1971. In September 1971, Boetti took his first preliminary drawing to Afghanistan. Once the artist specified the colors of the threads to be used, four women then worked simultaneously on the embroidery, which, depending on the format, would take between one to two years to finish.

    The production of these embroidered pictures, an elaborate process, continued until the artist’s death, as they were a focal point for Boetti during his career. “From the very outset of his career as an artist, Alighiero tried to find an artistic form suitable for expressing the fundamental structures of the world which he discerned in appropriate aesthetic terms”, writes Rolf Lauter, “When the works were in the realisation phase, Alighiero often resorted to a dialogical communication system between the artist, on the one hand, and collaborators, assistants and outside parties handling the work, on the other.”The production of these embroidered pictures, an elaborate process, continued until the artist’s death, as they were a focal point for Boetti during his career. “From the very outset of his career as an artist, Alighiero tried to find an
    artistic form suitable for expressing the fundamental structures of the world which he discerned in appropriate aesthetic terms”, writes Rolf Lauter, “When the works were in the realisation phase, Alighiero often resorted to a dialogical communication system between the artist, on the one hand, and collaborators, assistants and outside parties handling the work, on the other.”

    The present lot, Mappa (planisphère), is a visually rich showcase of Boetti’s most popular artistic production, and with reason. The vibrant colors of the ocean, demarcated with the vivid white and black border of Persian script on the sides and Italian on the upper and lower margins, highlight the cross pollination of two very vibrant cultures. What is more, the geo-political reality of the borders of nations in 1983 becomes forever ingrained into the work. The maps delineate the political boundaries of the countries, with each of them being embroidered with the design of its national flag, foreshadowing to the modern eye the transformations that would engulf the world over the next decade, from the fall of the Berlin Wall to the dissolution of the Soviet Union. It is precisely Boetti’s choice of medium that enabled him to underscore a deeply impactful message behind his art, in an abstract tone that bears witness to his skill at conveying messages through the handiwork of others.

    Emboldened across the top of the artwork are the words: Lasciare il certo per l’incerto e vice versa… literally to “leave the certain for the uncertain”, or to step out into the unknown and vice versa. The poetry behind the words was yet another method of Boetti’s art, as he imbued words, theories
    and artistic paradigms into his body of work. Stepping out into the unknown is, like taking a risk in life, something that most often yields to positive change.

    Today, years after Boetti’s death, Mappa documents in clear ways how the geographical and political have been altered, and highlight the omnipresent beauty in local artistic traditions and the genius of Boetti’s in capturing these techniques forever ingrained into an alluring style and colorful interplay. They are prayers to a communal effort across cultural lines and temporal borders.

26

Mappa (planisphère)

1983
Embroidery on canvas.
44 x 69 in. (111.8 x 175.3 cm.)
Embroidered “Alighiero Boetti” lower left. This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity from the Archivio Alighiero Boetti listed as no. 1689.

Estimate
$1,300,000 - 1,800,000 

Contemporary Art Part I

12 May 2011
New York