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signed, inscribed and dated 'Alighiero Boetti. 1973 Primavera' (on the reverse, not readable)
ballpoint pen on paper laid down on canvas
27 ¼ x 39in. (69.1 x 99cm.)
Executed in 1973
Galleria Massimo de Carlo, Milan.
Van de Weghe Fine Art, New York.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2001.
J-C. Ammann, Alighiero Boetti catalogo generale, vol. II, Milan 2012, p. 408, no. 483 (illustrated in colour, p. 92).
Milan, Galleria Massimo de Carlo, Alighiero e Boetti. Opere 1968-1981, 1988.
Milan, Galleria Massimo de Carlo, Alighiero e Boetti, 1996.
Frankfurt am Main, Museum für Moderne Kunst, Alighiero Boetti. Mettere al mondo il mondo, 1998, p. 331 (illustrated, p. 153). This exhibition later travelled to Frankfurt am Main, Galerie Jahrhunderthalle Höchst.
Further Details
This work is registered in the Archivio Alighiero Boetti, Rome, under no. 300 and is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity.

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Lot Essay

Included in Alighiero Boetti’s major retrospective at the Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt am Main in 1998, ABEEGHIIILOORTT (1973) is an early example of his celebrated Biro works. Across the top, the artist has rearranged the letters of his name in alphabetical order, yielding a word that is both nonsensical and strangely familiar. It is set against an inky blue backdrop composed of short, rapid strokes of biro, which vary in density and saturation across the picture plane. Begun in the early 1970s, Boetti’s Biro works marked the birth of his conceptual practice in earnest. Like the Arazzi, or tapestries, also begun during this period, the series saw him embrace the aesthetics of chance and collaboration. Delighting in the complex, near-painterly textures that emerged from the humble ballpoint pen, he invited other people to fill in the biro grounds according to his instructions, submitting to the unpredictable speed and rhythm of their hand. The artist’s authorial presence, like his name at the top of the work, is deliberately thrown into flux.

ABEEGHIIILOORTT belongs to the first wave of Biro works in which Boetti played with the letters of his name in various different configurations. Describing the present work’s origins, the artist explained that ‘I once placed the letters of my name in alphabetical order. I had been struck by the fact that society’s very foundations, its gigantic structures, would collapse, if only some minute elements, such as the alphabetical order, were not there’ (A. Boetti, quoted in Alighiero Boetti 1965-1994, exh. cat. Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Turin 1996, p. 201). By imposing a form of chaos upon the seemingly rigid laws of reading and comprehension, he exploded all preconceptions about language, inviting the viewer to reassess the meaning and value of letters, words and names. Elsewhere in his biro works, Boetti would develop a coded system of commas, which the viewer was required to match to corresponding letters in order to spell out phrases, dates and sayings.

Such games played into the spirit of the Biro works, which delighted in eliciting profound revelations from quotidian materials. They eloquently captured the artist’s fascination with the dualities of ordine e disordine (‘order and disorder’), creating new forms of sense and logic through scrambling and encryption. This, in turn, also illuminated Boetti’s guiding principle mettere al mondo il mondo (‘bringing the world into the world’): the idea that reinventing everyday symbols, signs and objects could shed new light upon the systems of knowledge that we use to make sense of our existence. In ABEEGHIIILOORTT, Boetti takes his own name as the starting point for this enquiry, draping it like a mysterious banner across the night sky.

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