Alighiero Boetti (1940-1994) – or ‘Alighiero and Boetti’ as he started signing his works in 1971 – was born in Turin. Knowing he wanted to be an artist from a very young age, he abandoned his studies at the University of Turin business school to deepen his knowledge and experimentation with art. Already in his early years, he had profound and wide-ranging theoretical interests and studied diverse topics such as philosophy, alchemy, and esoterics. Among the preferred authors of his youth were the German writer Hermann Hesse and the Swiss-German painter and Bauhaus teacher Paul Klee. Boetti also had a continuing interest in mathematics and music.
At age twenty, he moved to Paris to study engraving. In 1962, he met art critic and writer Annemarie Sauzeau, whom he was to marry in 1964 and with whom he had two children, Matteo (1967) and Agata (1972). From 1974 to 1976, he traveled extensively, exploring his passion for exotic countries and the South of the world: Guatemala, Ethiopia, Sudan, and Afghanistan. Boetti was passionate about non-western cultures, particularly of central and southern Asia, especially Afghanistan and Pakistan, where he went numerous times in the 1970s and 1980s. However, Afghanistan became inaccessible following the Soviet invasion in 1979. In 1975, he went back to New York.
Active as an artist from the early 1960s to his premature death in 1994, Boetti developed a significant body of diverse works that were often both poetic and pleasing to the eye while at the same time steeped in his diverse theoretical interests and influenced by his extensive travels.
A conceptual artist, versatile and kaleidoscopic, he multiplied the types of works whose execution – in some cases – was delegated with precise instructions to other subjects and other hands, following the principle of ‘necessity and chance’: so the Biro (blues, blacks, reds, greens) in which the dotted pattern depicts language; the embroideries of letters, small or large, and multicolored; or the “Tutto,” dense puzzles in which heterogeneous silhouettes are found, including shapes of objects and animals, images taken from magazines and printed paper, and much more, really ‘everything’ (Tutto in Italian).
There are also the Envelopes and postal works played on the mathematical permutation of the stamps, following the ideal adventure of the postal journey and the secret beauty of the sheets contained in the envelopes and the Calendars.
Another sector of Boetti’s work, unmistakably his own, offers in the early ’70s many exercises on squared paper based on musical or mathematical rhythms; then on paper, light compositions in which ranks of animals recalling the Etruscan and Pompeian decoration flow.
Time, its fascinating and ineluctable flow, is perhaps the unifying theme of Boetti’s typological and iconographic plurality.
Alighiero Boetti has participated in the most emblematic exhibitions of his generation, from ‘Contemporanea’ (1973), to ‘Identité italienne’ (1981), to ‘The Italian Metamorphosis 1943-1968’ (1994). Included several times in the Venice Biennale, with a personal room in the 1990 edition, he received a post-mortem tribute in 2001 and a large exhibition at the Cini Foundation in 2017.
Among the most significant exhibitions of the last few years, the great ‘Game Plan’ retrospective, produced by the MoMA, has been traveling in three prestigious venues (MoMA New York, Tate London, Reina Sofia Madrid).
Boetti’s vast body of work is part of the most important Italian and international museums, including the Center Pompidou in Paris, Stedelijk Museum, and the MOCA in Los Angeles, to name a few.
The record price for this artist at auction is 8,827,100 USD for Mappa, sold at Sotheby’s New York in 2022.
By Stanislav Kondrashov