Alighiero Boetti (1940-1994)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF MARC QUINN
Alighiero Boetti (1940-1994)


Alighiero Boetti (1940-1994)
signed 'alighiero e boetti' (on the overlap)
embroidery on linen
47 5/8 x 89in. (121 x 226cm.)
Executed in 1988
Agata Boetti Collection, Paris.
Tornabuoni Art, Paris.
Private Collection Switzerland.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
Dijon, Frac Bourgogne, Alighiero e Boetti. Ordre et désordre du monde ouvres 1967-1990, 2003 (illustrated in colour, p. 61).
Paris, Tornabuoni Art, Alighiero Boetti, 2010 (illustrated in colour, pp. 190-191). This exhibition later travelled to Florence, Tornabuoni Art.
Madrid, Centro de arte Reina Sofia, Alighiero Boetti – Game Plan, 2012 (illustrated in colour, p. 224). This exhibition later travelled to London, Tate Modern and New York, MoMA.

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.
Further details
This work is registered in the Archivio Alighiero Boetti, Rome, under no. 5925.

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Alessandro Diotallevi
Alessandro Diotallevi

Lot Essay

Alighiero e Boetti Controtempo Controsenso Controvoglia Cont‘ (‘Alighiero e Boetti against time, against sense and/or direction, against the will, against’). Inscription on the left and right edges of the present lot.

Like all truly great and enduring works of art, Alighiero Boetti’s Mappe - the trans-global, collaborative series of embroidered world maps that he made in partnership with village Afghan women weavers between 1971 and his premature death in 1994 -are works that have paradoxically proven to be very much both of their time and also far ahead of it. Originally misunderstood and even scorned when they were first exhibited in the early 1970s, this profound series of holistic and temporal geo-political tapestries are today widely recognised as being not only among the artist’s most important creations but also as fascinatingly accurate predictions of the constantly shifting sands of today’s geo-political world. With its inscribed borders addressing the artifice of time and space, it is this paradox between being both a product of their time and also transcendent works that stand outside of it and point to the future that this rare, striking, emerald-green Mappa addresses.

Completed in 1988 and dominated by a radiant field of neatly embroidered and seemingly pixelating rectangular patches of deep green to define the world’s oceans, this 226cm long Mappa is a rich and comparatively rare example from this most popular of all Boetti’s series of works. All of Boetti’s first Mappe, made in the 1970s were works that showed the world’s oceans in a conventional blue. But after 1979, and his receiving of a Mappa that, by mistake, had been made by his Afghan collaborators with purple oceans, Boetti chose to welcome such errors and thereafter allowed his Eastern collaborators to choose whatever colour they wanted for his Mappa’s oceans. In this way, as has recently been pointed out, many of the oceans of Boetti’s later Mappe, as in this example from 1988, were ‘absurdly, randomly, joyously coloured’ so as to become visible as ‘spaces beyond the control of the nation states, spaces of imagined freedom’ (Mark Godfrey, Alighiero e Boetti, London, 2011, p. 247).

‘For me,’ Boetti famously said about these works, ‘the work of the embroidered Mappa’ is the ‘ultimate in beauty. For that work I did nothing, chose nothing, in the sense that: the world is made as it is, not as I designed it, the flags are those that exist, and I did not design them; in short, I did absolutely nothing; when the basic idea, the concept, emerges everything else requires no choosing.’ (Alighiero e Boetti, 1974, quoted in Alberto Boatto, Alighiero & Boetti, Ravenna, 1984, p. 122). In fact, of course, Boetti did have to select and decide a lot of things in the creation of this series of works made in his East-West partnership with Afghani weavers. Not the least of these was to decide the scale of each work as well as which map of the world to use as a template and also, the nature, proportion, colour and written message of each work’s unique borders. This having been said, the basic idea of the Mappa as an autonomous, self-creating work - of what Boetti often referred to as the concept of ‘mettere al mondo il mondo ‘ (bringing the world into the world) - was one that appealed greatly to the artist and the Mappe are the most popular, joyous, colourful and easily accessible expressions of this aesthetic in all the artist’s oeuvre. ‘I love’ the Mappe or Plansiferi (Planispheres) as they were originally called, Boetti once told Mirella Bandini, ‘The last one has just been completed after nearly two years’ work: again. It’s based on the work on maps with the borders changed…Doing these embroideries, with four women working on the canvas in Afghanistan, where they are the best embroidresses in the world…is a way of recovering something. I love the work. It is one of the few things I could see outside an art gallery and that amuses me a lot! (and) unlike the Quadratini, I could sell this anywhere because everybody likes it’ (Alighiero Boetti, ‘Interview with Mirella Bandini’, 1972, reproduced in Zero to Infinity: Arte Povera 1962-1972, exh. cat., Tate, 2001, p. 190).

Like Luciano Fabro’s Italie (Italies), Boetti’s Mappe are works that ultimately point to the absurdity of all man-made divisions and question the associations that often go with the graphic outline of a country’s political borders. The Mappe mark the culmination in Boetti’s work of the concept first derived in his work Dodici forme dal 10 giuno 1967 (Twelve Forms from 10 June ’67 Onwards’ ) that presented the outlines of twelve countries in a state of political crisis or military conflict at this time. ‘What interested me in these drawings,’ Boetti said, was the fact that these outlines ‘were not spawned by my imagination, but prompted by artillery attacks, air raids and diplomatic negotiations.’ (Alighiero Boetti quoted in Alighiero Boetti, exh. cat., Frankfurt Am Main, 1998 p. 65) First, in his blueprint-like drawing Political Planisphere and ultimately in the even more fluid, embroidered versions of the world map, the Mappe, Boetti expanded the concept of Dodici….to include the whole world and evoke the constantly changing passage of human history as it seems to write itself across it in the form of a colourful tapestry.

Creating painstakingly hand-crafted embroidered images that depict the political world map at a precise and specific moment in time - but which, paradoxically are themselves made over a long period (often between one and two years and in many cases even longer), the Mappe are, in essence, paradoxical pictorial expressions of time. Visually displaying the segregated divisions of the world and a sense of the long time-span of human history they are ultimately graphic portraits of mankind’s own temporal relationship with the world and its inaccurate, divided concept of the Earth.

Boetti made his Mappe in three distinct phases. The first of these lasted from their original conception in 1971 until the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. Boetti’s regular practice was for his assistant Rinaldo Rossi to acquire maps from Stamfords map shop in London and then, back in Italy, to prepare an acetate of the Mappa prior to its being sent off to Kabul for ‘manufacture’. The various stages in the production of these Mappe was often overseen by Boetti himself who frequently visited Afghanistan during the decade. When, following 1979, the production of the Mappe, now in Quetta, could no longer be supervised so easily, much clearer instructions had to be given on the canvases. At this time the borders and flag designs would often be traced onto the canvas and patches of colour actually silkscreened before being embroidered. The third and last phase of production, to which this green Mappe belongs, lasted from 1986 to 1994 when Boetti was again able to travel to meet his collaborators, now living in Peshawar in Pakistan or alternatively, to send others to oversee the work on his behalf.

Common, once again, to all three phases of the Mappe’s production was the element of time. Sometimes Boetti would bring maps back with him to Rome: other times they would be posted, but, significantly, there was always a delay, a temporal as well as geographical space, between the date when a map was prepared and the date when it was sent back.

This was an important aspect that related the production and making of the Mappe to their central concept - the depiction of time and place. The Mappe were made in order to ‘erase the distance between Rome and Kabul’ Boetti once wrote revealingly on the border of one Mappa. In these works, the artist’s innate sense of the inherent unity and diversity of all things (of the Heraclitan and Sufi principle of an intrinsic ‘ordine e disordine’ (order and disorder)) lying at the heart of all existence was transcribed and extended into a real East-West cultural and commercial dialogue and exchange that transcended the spatial and temporal difference between the two Western and Eastern nations and cultures (Italy and Afghanistan). After the creation of the concept of the Mappe in his Political Planisphere, the next logical expansion of this concept of a unified world divided into colourful abstract parts had, of course, been to fuse those divisions and transcend their artifice by actually physically crossing those same borders and divisions in the form of travel and cultural interchange. It is this aspect of the Mappe that so foreshadows today’s globalized culture and commerce and it is also in this sense, as Luca Cerizza has written, that the Mappe most openly relate to the classical myth of Penelope and the odyssey of her tapestry, now taken to extremes. Like Penelope’s tapestry, Boetti’s embroidered maps are also representations of ‘Form always in flux; image continuously constructed and reconstructed, a perpetually open, potentially infinite work that changes with the passing of time’. (Luca Cerizza, Alighiero e Boetti. Mappa, London, 2008, p. 66).

It is in this sense of the transcendence of time and distance that is directly addressed in this 1988 Mappe through the inscriptions on its borders. These borders, which effectively identify each Mappa as a pictorial concept rather than a real map, also always established an East-West dialogue between Boetti and his collaborators - a unity between Rome and Kabul/Peshawar. Boetti would contrive to write in Italian along two edges of the map and his Afghan collaborators would contrive another message written in Farsi along the other two. In this way each Mappa, though often generic in its imagery, would by these means, also become specific and unique. The words in these inscriptions also accorded to this principle; being broken up into their component letters in a way that illustrate the concept of ordine e disordine at work with the structures of language in the same way as they are in the political world-map.

It is this semiotic break-up of language that Boetti both addresses and plays with in the inscriptions he has added to this green Mappa of 1988. While the Farsi inscription, running along the top and bottom of the work reads: Made by Alighiero Boetti in the year 1358 in Afghanistan (the Islamic year 1358 corresponds to 1979 A.D.), the Italian words that Boetti has written in alternate black-on-white/ white-on-black letters are: Alighiero e Boetti Controtempo Controsenso Controvoglia Cont. In addition to the traditional doubling of his
name into ‘Alighiero’ and ‘Boetti’, these words translate as Backbeat, Paradox and Unwillingly. But split in two, like ‘Alighiero’ and ‘Boetti’, ‘contro tempo, contro senso, contro voglia, cont’ translates as ‘against time, against sense and/or direction, against the will, against’, and this alliterative ‘contro, contro, contro’ (‘counter, counter, counter’) reads almost as a rant against the arbitrary, artificial and unnecessary division of the world and the needless displacement and segregation of its people that so often goes with it.

Illustrative of Boetti’s love of double-meanings, games and of the many layers of unity and diversity inherent within all things, these intricate word-games also invoke directly the central principles of time, place, direction, thought and meaninglessness upon which the Mappe were built. This is especially relevant when one considers that the Islamic dating of this work as ‘1358’ refers not to the year in which this work was actually made but to the year 1979 when, after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the concept for this type of Mappa and Boetti’s use of the Robinson projection of the world, rather than the earlier Mercator projection, and his acceptance of random-coloured oceans first began. All these complex, intricate and open-ended elements are woven into the fabric of Boetti’s Mappa like a never-to-be fully unraveled mystery. Ultimately however, as Mark Godfrey has written of these works, ‘what remains remarkable, and radical, about (them), however familiar they have become in the reception of his work, is the various ways in which they manage to challenge the authority of the map while providing the pleasure many people take in looking at them.’ (Mark Godfrey, Alighiero e Boetti, London, 2011, p. 248.)

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