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

Aerei (Planes)

Alighiero Boetti (1940-1994)
Aerei (Planes)
watercolor on paper laid down on canvas
37 ¾ x 78 1/8 (96 x 198.6cm.)
Executed in 1989
Galleria Tornabuoni, Paris.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2010.
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. These lots have been imported from outside the EU for sale using a Temporary Import regime. Import VAT is payable (at 5%) on the Hammer price. VAT is also payable (at 20%) on the buyer’s Premium on a VAT inclusive basis. When a buyer of such a lot has registered an EU address but wishes to export the lot or complete the import into another EU country, he must advise Christie's immediately after the auction.
Further details
This work is registered in the Archivio Alighiero Boetti, Rome, no. 4979.

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Mariolina Bassetti
Mariolina Bassetti

Lot Essay

Created in 1989, Aerei is a large-scale example of the artist’s project of the same name, a seminal and instantly recognizable series executed over of works that beautifully demonstrates the maturity of Boetti’s artistic practice and distinct ability to combine visual pleasure and philosophical rigour. Created contemporaneously to the acclaimed Mappe tapestries, the Aerei fully testify to the artist’s playful delight in the commonplace, the principle of collaboration as well as profound philosophical and geo-political sensibility that permeates his multi-facetted oeuvre. Coming from one of Boetti’s most iconic series, of which other examples are in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, or the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the work features a dense array of exquisitely drawn airplanes flying in all directions across a sumptuous blue sky, crisscrossing and overflowing the boundaries of the canvas within a dynamic and frenetic composition that is both visually cacophonous and elegantly orchestrated.
The seeds of this decade long project were first sewn in 1977 when Boetti collaborated with the architect, cartoonist and illustrator Guido Fuga to produce his first Aerei. Depicting an almost encyclopaedic visual typology of modern and historical airplanes, each of which had been traced with great detail and precision from popular magazine sources collected by the artist, this blue watercolour drawing would become the basis for each subsequent iteration that Boetti conceived. By tracing the outlines of the airplanes from other printed material, the artist believed he was removing his hand from the direct creation of the artwork, an important concept that would underpin much of his subsequent oeuvre. Indeed, Boetti pushed this idea further by handing the final creation of the Aerei over to his network of collaborators, made up of burgeoning artists and amateurs, who would then work to the artist’s instructions to achieve the final composition.
The diversity of people involved in the creation of the artwork is reflected in the array of interpretations seen in the final series – each Aerei exhibits subtle variations from one another, as different configurations of airplanes converge and overlap one another, crowded together in clusters in some compositions or dispersed in a random pattern in others. Similarly, when considered together, it is striking to see the variety of different backgrounds that have been created. From the distinctly monochrome to the subtly variegated, executed using fluid washes of watercolour, gestural strokes of biro, or variegated pools of ink, the Aerei are a study in variation and contrast, a concept of infinite potential.
Rich with references to global mobility, exchange and travel, the Aerei also speak to the artist’s desire of transcending the artifice of geopolitical, ideological and cultural divisions in the world. When asked by Jean-Christophe Ammann about the meaning of the airplane series, Boetti explained, ‘I think I made it because today everything seems simultaneous and superficial to me’ (Boetti, quoted in A. Sauzeau, Alighiero Boetti, Paris 2010, p. 29). Boetti allowed this global vision to permeate both his personal life and artistic practice - integrating modes of cultural interchange, traditional craftsmanship and collaboration into the very fabric of his art objects, whilst living a nomadic life of travelling and creating work around the world, notably in central and southern Asia. Reflecting on his nomadism, Boetti once stated: ‘perhaps it comes from this schizophrenic idea that one cannot stay always in the same place’ (Boetti, in P. Morsani, When 2 is 1: The Art of Alighiero e Boetti, exh. cat., Houston, 2002, p.93).
Aerei visualizes this powerfully with an image in which diverse fighter jets and passenger planes, cargo crafts and two-seater jets co-exist in a precarious moment frozen in time, articulating the artist’s central philosophical principle of ordine e disordine (order and disorder). One of the most striking aspects of the airplanes in Aerei is their potential for movement beyond the boundaries of the composition. Just as a passenger jet may streak across the sky overhead and soon disappear from our view, lost in the vast expanse of the sky, the presence of these planes appears temporary, as if they may disappear off the edge of the canvas at any moment. Floating like model airplanes within an illusionary and fantastical space of action and movement, they criss-cross one another, interwoven in a complex network of invisible paths, as they make their way to a series of unknown destinations.
The concept underlying the Aerei continued to inspire Boetti throughout the early ‘90s and fed into another of his almost surreal conceptual artistic projects. When asked what his favourite unrealised idea was, Boetti told curator Hans Ulrich Obrist, ‘my dream would be to exhibit in all of the airplanes of one airline and have puzzles distributed in installation on all airplanes’ (Boetti, quoted in ‘An Interview with Hans Ulrich Obrist’, Contemporary Practices, 2008, vol. 4, 108). In 1991, the artist achieved his ambitious aim with the assistance of Obrist, publishing six of his watercolour Aerei in the Austrian Airlines in-flight magazine and creating a jigsaw puzzle based on his original 1977 Aerei triptych. Designed to fit perfectly within the dimensions of the airline’s tray-tables, passengers could request a puzzle and make the artwork for themselves, instigating a new form of collaborative practice between the artist and the viewer. Thus, by physically travelling around the world, completely independent of the artist, these compositions achieved Boetti’s ultimate goal of creating a truly global artwork.

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