Alighiero Boetti (1940-1994)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more
Alighiero Boetti (1940-1994)


Alighiero Boetti (1940-1994)
signed, inscribed and dated 'alighiero e boetti - KABUL - AFGHANISTAN
embroidery on linen
44 3/8 x 70 1/8in. (112.7 x 178cm.)
Executed in 1984
Annina Nosei Gallery, New York.
Private Collection, New York.
Anon. sale, Christie's New York, 20 May 1999, lot 172.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
Special notice
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.

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Barbara Guidotti
Barbara Guidotti

Lot Essay

'Io vivere vorrei addormentato entro il dolce rumore della vita' ('I wish to live asleep in the sweet noise of life') Sandro Penna, quoted in the present work.

With its rich, ornamental colours and the sense of plush luxury of the embroidery, Alighiero Boetti's Mappa is a poetic fusion of East and West, a work of art that encapsulates and critiques globalism. Mappa was designed by Boetti and was completed by skilled Afghan workers who were by this time in exile in Pakistan. Thus both in terms of its contents and its context, Mappa tells a tale of flux, of the arbitrary lines in the sand that define so much identity in the modern world.

That tale is most eloquently evident in two white spaces in Mappa. In the South-Western corner of Africa, the nation now known as Namibia is shown as a white blank, in recognition of its ambiguous status at that time. For Namibia spent much of the Twentieth Century as a province of South Africa, yet that country's occupation was not recognised by a large part of the international community after the founding of the United Nations. Another white space, though, is far more eloquent: that where the flag of Afghanistan should be. The embroiderers, Afghans in exile in Peshawar and Quetta, created a small number of Mappe, Boetti's most recognized series, in which they left a void to represent their homeland. The rarity of this is demonstrated by comparison between Mappa and the similarly-sized work in the MMK in Frankfurth-am-Main: dating from 1983, it features an Afghan flag which is counterbalanced by Farsi inscriptions from the refugees down the side. Luca Cerizza has commented on the phenomenon of the white Afghanistan in Boetti's images: '

The most noteworthy discrepancy found in many maps, especially in and around 1983, is where the Afghan flag is completely white. In that period, after the fall of the "Khalq" faction and the rise of the "Parcham" (banner) party, the official flag had horizontal stripes in black red and green. Given the troubled political situation, Boetti began to let the Afghan artisans compose the imagery for their flag... the white flag of Afghanistan remains a perfect metaphor of the dramatic, tumultuous history of the country in particular, and of world political history in general' (Luca Cerizza, Alighiero e Boetti. Mappa, London, 2008, p. 89).

The Mappe, as well as objects reminiscent of Oriental luxury that appropriately recall nomadic tent hangings, are telling tributes to the human cost that is incurred by a political world in constant flux. Boetti, who had a great love for Afghanistan, felt the turmoil keenly, especially following the Soviet invasion in 1979 which led to so much human tragedy - and whose repercussions are still felt to this day.

In a sense, the historical events that led to the white space in Mappa and to its being embroidered in Pakistan were a self-fulfilling prophecy, as Boetti had already been interested in nations in flux and conflict. His maps had had their origins over a decade before the invasion of Afghanistan, in Dodici forme dal giugno '67. In that work, he took the front pages of newspapers when they showed maps; he then removed every detail except the image itself and the date at the top. Naturally, the reason these maps had made their appearance on the front pages of the newspapers was as a result of some event: 'What interested me in these drawings was the fact that they were not spawned by my imagination, but prompted by artillery attacks, air raids and diplomatic negotiations' (Boetti, quoted
in Alighiero Boetti: Mettere al mondo il mondo, exh. cat., Frankfurt, 1998, p. 65).
This idea was taken further when Boetti acquired a printed map of the world and set about filling the borders of each of the countries with its flag. This, his first world map, was his 1969 work, Planisfero politico, which later evolved into his first embroidered map, made in Afghanistan. Looking at Mappa, with the weight of red to the upper right, the viewer can perceive the contrast between this inscrutable, ordered image and the chaos of reality 'on the ground' against the backdrop of the Cold War and various other conflicts raging around the world which resulted in so many changes of border and of flag.

The Mappa fitted perfectly within Boetti's oeuvre. Combining his own outlook on life with the Sufism that was increasingly attracting his attention, it provided an arbitrary system by which one could glimpse some sense of the greater whole of existence. In this way, taking a found system and enshrining it in this embroidery, Boetti was enacting his key practice: Mettere al mondo il mondo, to bring the world into the world. This found image of the globe becomes a microcosm. 'To my mind, the work
of the embroidered map represents the supreme beauty', Boetti himself explained.

'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' (Boetti, quoted in ibid., p. 69).

The poetic content and concept of Mappa is underscored by the inscription which Boetti has included around the edge. As well as the date and the artist's name, there is a well-known quote from the Roman poet Sandro Penna, who had died in 1977 but to whose works Boetti often turned in his texts. Here, it reads, Io vivere vorrei addormentato entro il dolce rumore della vita - I want to live asleep in the sweet noise of life.' This is a notion that chimes perfectly with the
sense of Ordine e disordine, order and disorder, that so fascinated Boetti. Ordine e disordine are likewise perfectly embodied in this ordered image of the globe, which reveals so little of the sometimes brutal disorder of the human tales that lie underneath.

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