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Alighiero Boetti (1940-1994)


Alighiero Boetti (1940-1994)
titled 'ONONIMO' (upper centre)
red ballpoint pen on card, in eleven parts
each: 27 5/8 x 39 3/8in. (70 x 100cm.)
Executed in 1973
Gian Enzo Sperone, Turin.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1973.
Special notice
No VAT will be charged on the hammer price, but VAT at 17.5% will be added to the buyer's premium, which is invoiced on a VAT inclusive basis.

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Alice de Martigny
Alice de Martigny

Lot Essay

This work is registered in the Archivio Alighiero Boetti, Rome, under no. 1794.

One of the largest of all Boetti's Biro works, Ononimo, with its progression of eleven separate panels, each hand-coloured in red biro, is a vast and spectacular assertion of one of the central principles of his art. As Boetti's work progressed from a relatively localised 'arte povera' into one of the first truly globalised artistic adventures incorporating a more international form of Conceptual art, the nature of identity lay at the centre of his work, both in terms of subject and author. Ononimo is a work that encompasses both concepts.

Its title 'Ononimo' is a neologism born from a conflation of the two Italian words 'anonimo' (anonymous) and 'omonimo' (homonym) that Boetti first invented as a self-reflexive expression in 1971, written on blue biro on a single sheet of white drawing paper. At this time Boetti had also begun to twin his identity by placing an 'and' between his first and last names: Alighiero e Boetti. In 1973, a new version of Ononimo mirrored a further extension of this already split self with the title written in 'negative' - that is, in white - against a coloured background.

As a further sense of elaborating the question of authorship, Boetti's biro works are in general, self-signifying abstract pictures systematically coloured by others yet always based on a code or playful schematic system designed by the artist himself. In order to point to the infinite variety possible within this extremely simple and singular self-reflexive concept, Boetti chose to use a sequence of eleven identical but different, because they were separately-made, panels. The decision to limit (or expand) this potentially infinite progression of panels to eleven allies these works closely to Boetti himself, while maintaining one of the key principles of these works - that they remain anonymously created. The number eleven is a magic and mystical number that was Boetti's favourite because, when written '11' it contains a twinning of the unit '1', and thus numerically reflects Boetti's own twinned nature as Alighiero e Boetti.

At once both a highly engrossing intellectual and philosophical statement and a ravishing visual experience, this red-biro Ononimo is one of only four works (two in blue biro and two in red) comprising eleven panels that Boetti made. An autonomous and essentially authorless creation that plays on both the principle of order and disorder (ordine e disordine) and on the mystical notion of there being many contained in the one, this large, important and comparatively rare work is a pictorial testimony to the infinite variation to be found within the man-made concept of a singular unit or individual identity.

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