Alighiero Boetti (1940-1994)
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Alighiero Boetti (1940-1994)


Alighiero Boetti (1940-1994)
embroidery on linen
24 3/8 x 39 5/8in. (62.1 x 100.5cm.)
Executed in 1987
Galleria Seno, Milan.
Private Collection, Switzerland
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
Special notice
VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price and at 20% on the buyer's premium.

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Lot Essay

This work is registered in the Archivio Alighiero Boetti, Rome, under no. 3219.

'I asked my assistants to draw everything, every possible shape, abstract or figurative, and to amalgamate them until the paper sheet was saturated. Then I took the drawing to Afghanistan to get it embroidered with 90 kinds of different coloured threads, provided that there was an equal quantity of each of them. The different colour of each shape is chosen by the women. In order to avoid establishing any hierarchy among them, I use them all. Actually, my concern is to avoid to make choices according to my taste and to invent systems that will then choose on my behalf.'

(Boetti, quoted in A. Zevi, 'Alighiero e Boetti: Scrivere, Ricamare,
Disegnare', Corriere della Sera, 19 January 1992)

Among the last works that Boetti made, his works named Tutto (Everything) represent, in many ways, the culmination of the artist's aesthetic and are in this respect a pictorial summation of his artistic career. Holistic visions of 'everything', they are portraits of the macrocosm as a myriad of interconnecting miniature parts. A sequence of fragments or segments, these embroidered pictures, made throughout the last years of Boetti's life, depict the object-filled world of visual experience as a complex unity - as a perpetual field of chaos and flux held together into a cohesive and united order. In this, they are the ultimate expression of the central guiding principle of Boetti's art; the principle he called ordine e disordine (order and disorder).

This principle, which underpins all of Boetti's art from the late 1960s onwards, originated in the ancient thought of philosophers like Heraclitus, and is a central part of the philosophy underlying much Eastern thought, in particular that of Sufi mystics like Boetti's spiritual teacher, the poet Berang Ramazan. A central tenet of Sufism is its notion of truth being in essence both devoid of form and yet also inherent within and thereby inseparable from all the forms of life, both material and spiritual. It is this essentially mystic notion of the holistic presence of a single unifying principle at work within the myriad diversity of all the forms of life that ultimately determines the concept of the Tutto and which these works express.
Boetti chose the wide variety of objects to be depicted in a Tutto from encyclopedias, schoolbooks, magazines, newspapers and other lexica. This approach ensured a wide range of motifs, but the degree of this range and scope was always ultimately determined by Boetti himself and many stencil-shapes were made of certain favourite motifs so that they could be reused in later designs.

The result of this process, as this Tutto from 1987 shows, is a visual overload of pictorial information that conveys a sense of the work being a slice of the myriad puzzle of infinite variety and detail that is the world. Implicit within the work however, is a visual sense of its underlying organisational structure, of the fact that the shape of each motif in the work has played a determining role on the ones around it so that collectively, the entire work is in fact a construction and not a random collage of form. It is this element of these works that ultimately ensures the viewer perceives the ordering principle at the heart of the seemingly chaotic flux of the whole and thereby also encourages them to view the world around them in the same mystically penetrative way.

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