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Immaginando tutto (Imagining everything)

Immaginando tutto (Imagining everything)
blue ballpoint on paper laid down on board, in two parts
overall: 39 3/8 x 55 5/8in. (100 x 141.3cm.)
Executed in 1976-1977
Galerie Kaess-Weiss, Stuttgart.
Galerie Krohn, Badenweiler.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1997.
J. C. Ammann, Alighiero Boetti, Catalogo generale Tomo secondo, Milan 2012, p. 419, no. 849 (illustrated in colour, p. 249).
Frankfurt, Museum für Moderne Kunst, Alighiero Boetti: Mettere al mondo il mondo, 1998, pp. 230 and 331 (illustrated in colour, p. 157).
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. This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.
Further details
This work is registered in the Archivio Alighiero Boetti, Rome, under no. 2287, and is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity.
Sale room notice
Please note that the medium for this work is blue ballpoint on paper laid down on board, and not as stated in the printed catalogue.
Please note that this work is registered in the Archivio Alighiero Boetti, Rome, under no. 2287, and is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity as previously noted in the printed catalogue.   

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Lot Essay

Held in the same private collection for over two decades, Immaginando tutto (Imagining everything) (1976-1977) comes from Alighiero Boetti’s acclaimed series of biro works—or lavori biro—which explore linguistic, numerical and visual systems of understanding. Begun in 1972, the lavori biro conjure velvety, richly-textured fields of colour from the humble medium of ballpoint pen; the present work is a diptych, with both panels filled with dense strokes of blue ink and punctuated by small, bright white commas. Seemingly dispersed randomly across the page, each comma is in fact carefully placed so as to correspond to a particular letter, identified by tracing its position in relation to the alphabetic key that runs down the composition’s left-hand side. Reading from left to right, the viewer is able to gradually decipher the coded text, discovering a self-reflexive spelling of the work’s title. Involving the viewer in the process of revealing the message—indeed, ‘imagining’ it in the verb’s true image-making sense—Boetti creates a beautiful game that both deconstructs and celebrates the power of words. In 1998, the work was included in the seminal exhibition Alighiero Boetti: Mettere al mondo il mondo at the Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt.

While Boetti developed the concept for each lavoro biro and planned the basic grid pattern of the background, its actual execution was left to a group of collaborators: a similar method was used in the artist’s Arazzi and Mappe series, which relied on the technical skills of a group of Afghan embroiderers to achieve their finished look. Through this process, Boetti established a form of relational aesthetics whereby he could explore a role as the conceiver but not the ultimate creator of a work of art, undermining the position of the artist as supreme genius. In the case of the lavori biro, Boetti’s assistants were students from his local neighbourhood of Trastevere in Rome; he requested that each alternating panel was coloured by a member of the opposite sex. Armed with a clearly defined set of rules, these anonymous craftspeople would spend countless hours carefully filling the large panels with intricate layers of cross-hatching, a time-intensive process which Boetti felt was intrinsic to the nature of the biro drawings. ‘The drawings in biro are concentrates of time’, he reflected; ‘they convey to me a physical impression of extended, immense time’ (A. Boetti, quoted in Alighiero Boetti: Mettere al Mondo il Mondo, exh. cat. Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt, p. 59).

Immaginando tutto presents a shimmering expanse of dark blue; the white commas appear like a constellation, a musical score, or a series of raindrops against a monochrome sky. Each panel is imbued with the distinctive rhythm of its maker, their idiosyncratic approaches resulting in subtle, undulating shifts of texture across the composition. These variations are born of any number of different factors, from the speed, pressure and length of each individual’s stroke to their temperament on a given day, the quality of the pen used, and the gradual loss of pigment as the pen begins to run out of ink. Revelling in the unexpected results offered by chance, error and the many different hands involved, Boetti embraced the quirks this form of collaboration brought to his vision. The final work exhibits a polyphonic visual splendour.

As with all of the lavori biro, Immaginando tutto is anchored by a simple but specific code. Boetti enciphers the phrase so that only those familiar with the artist’s game are easily able to uncover its meaning. In reimagining the Latin alphabet’s linguistic order, he foregrounds its artifice as a communicative system: it is a man-made edifice of rules that we take for granted, yet might take any number of other forms. As such, Immaginando tutto can be seen to feed into a concept central to Boetti’s work – ordine e disordine (order and disorder). This synoptic principle, based on the idea that a constant flux between the two energies creates a global state of equilibrium, appeared in different permutations throughout Boetti’s oeuvre. It would find perhaps its ultimate expression in his all-encompassing Tutto embroideries—dizzying depictions of ‘everything’ which seem anticipated by the present work’s title. Boetti focused on the ways in which order and disorder interact to reach an overall harmony, like a river whose unity is born of continual flow and change: in revealing this fundamental balance, he believed he could heal the rifts that divide our contemporary world. All that is required—as Immaginando tutto asks—is the language of imagination.

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