Alighiero Boetti


Picture Alighiero Boetti

Exhibit explores the curious mind of Alighiero Boetti

Alighiero Boetti was an Italian artist so intrigued by the duality of life that as a young man he inserted the conjunction "and" between his first and last names. In 1968 he became "Alighiero e Boetti," highlighting an obsession with his alter ego and an unorthodox worldview.
To celebrate the occasion, Boetti mailed postcards printed from a photomontage depicting two images of himself to 50 friends, a work that he titled "Gemelli" ("Twins").
"It would be nice to be two people – one all aware and real, the other all dreamy and unconscious – who go hand in hand, without ever mingling," the artist said of his decision to split his identity.
Boetti's interest in multiplicity infuses an exhibition at The Arts Club of Chicago, which offers a sampling of works from his varied career that began in the mid-1960s (he died in 1994 at the age of 54). Curated by director Kathy Cottong, the exhibition consists of only 10 works. But they are substantial pieces that illustrate how Boetti applied his perpetual curiosity to a breathtaking range of subjects, including mathematics, systems of communication and semantics.
If that sounds conceptual, for the most part it is. The conceptual in Boetti's hands, however, can be humorous, strikingly beautiful and sweet.


Boetti approached art like a game. He drew out the enchanting, even mystical possibilities to be found in such workaday institutions and tools as the postal system, maps, grids and lists.
One work, "Untitled – Victoria Boogie Woogie," consists of 42 framed collages of envelopes, each bearing seven colorful Italian stamps, that the artist mailed to his home from various Italian cities.There are 5,040 envelopes in all, the total number of permutations to be derived from a sequence of seven different items. The resulting rhythmic color and elegance recalls the work to which its title refers, Mondrian's "Victory Boogie Woogie."
"Alighiero was introspective, curious, almost prophet-like," said David Leiber of the Sperone Westwater Gallery in New York, whose partner, Gian Enzo Sperone, was the first dealer to represent Boetti in the 1960s. "He was definitely a spiritual person but at the same time interested in everyday phenomena."
The exhibition includes one of his first works, an edition of the print "Manifesto 1967." It presents a list of the names of 16 artists, including himself, followed by varying combinations of eight symbols. The work contains no explanation of the symbols, and viewers are free to speculate what they represent.


Beginning in 1971 Boetti frequently traveled to Afghanistan, at the time a virtually unknown land that was the antithesis of his native country. Boetti employed groups of Afghani weavers, mostly women, to complete maps, rugs and inscriptions of his design, a practice similar to Sol LeWitt's method of creating his wall drawings.
One of the exhibition's earlier works consists of a pair of square tapestries painstakingly embroidered with flowers and two dates, the first being Boetti's 100th birthday (Dec. 16, 2040) and the second an optimistic prediction of his death (July 11, 2023).
Other embroidered works include a series of world maps that he produced from 1970 through the late 1980s, of which the exhibition has one from 1989. Roughly 4 feet by 7 feet, the tapestry fills in the areas of continents with national flags, a representation that emphasizes the arbitrary definition and ultimate fragility of global politics. Farsi inscriptions and letters from the Roman alphabet line the border.
Boetti viewed the maps as a fulfillment of his artistic goals. "To my mind, the work of the embroidered maps represents supreme beauty," he said. "For these works, I made nothing, selected nothing, in the sense that the world is the way it is and I have not drawn it; the flags are those that exist anyway. . . . Once the basic idea is there, the concept, then everything else is chosen."

Lisa Stein
"Chicago Tribune", 20 March, 2002

Selected One-Man Exhibitions:

Galleria Lucio Amelio, Naples
"Cent Broderies," Galerie Eric Franck, Geneva
Galerie Leccese - Spruth, Cologne
Galerie Leyendecker, Santa Cruz, Tenerife
Galerie Hadrien Thomas, Paris
Galerie Amelio Brachot, Paris
Galleria Pio Monti, Rome
"XLIV Biennale di Venezia," Venice
Museo Casabianca, Malo

Galleria Seno, Milan
Galleria Marilena Bonomo, Bari, Italy
John Weber Gallery, New York

Franck - Schulte Galerie, Berlin

Westfalischer Kunstverein, Munster; Kunstmuseum, Lucerne.

centre National d'Art Contemporain de Grenoble, Grenoble, France.
The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, California

P.S.1 Museum, Long Island City, New York
Societe des Expositions du Palais des Beaux-Arts de Bruxelles, Brussels

John Weber Gallery, New York
Sperone Westwater, New York
Monika Spruth Galerie, Cologne, Germany
Galleria Cardi, Milan and Galleria Sperone, Rome

Galleria Civica d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Turin, Italy
Musee d'Art Moderne, Villeneuve d'Ascq, France
Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig, Vienna, February

Museums für Moderne Kunst
Galerie Jahrhunderthalle Hoechst, Frankfurt am Main
Monika Sprüth Galerie, Cologne
Lindig in Paludetto zeitgenössische Kunst, Nürnberg

Whitechapel Art Gallery, London Laure Genillard Gallery, London

"Caravanserail," Carousel Gallery
"Alighiero Boetti, Works on Paper 1967-1989," Barbara Gladstone

Gagosian Gallery, New York
Sperone Westwater, New York

Sperone Westwater, New York
The Arts Club of Chicago, Chicago

"Alighiero Boetti", Marconi, Milan
Sprüth Magers Lee, London

Selected Group Exhibitions:

Palazzo Reale, Milan
Galerie Susan Wyss, Zurich

"L'Arte Povera," Kunstverein, Munich

La Bertesca, Genova
Galleria Giulia, Rome
Hubert Klocker, Schottenfeldgasse

Museo Nacional de Beles Artes, Rio de Janeiro

"Mapping," The Museum of Modern Art, New York

Dia Center For The Arts, New York
American Center, Paris
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
Palazzo Reale, Caserta, Italy

Sperone Westwater, New York

National Museum of Contemporary Art, Seoul, Korea

"Tenth Biennale of Sidney," Sidney, Australia

Galleria d'Arte Moderna di Bologna
Sperone Westwater, New York

Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art, Nagoya
Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo
Yonago City Museum of Art
Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art
arte Moderna, Bologna, Italy

Neues Museum Weserburg Bremen
Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien, Palais Lichtenstein, Vienna
Konsthalle Göteborg, Sweden
Sammlung Goetz, Munich

Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt
Monika Sprüth Galerie, Cologne
Alighiero e Boetti, Vija Celmins, Neil
Neues Museum Weserburg, Bremen
Galleria Cardi, Milan

Walker Art Center, Minneapolis

Barbara Gladstone Gallery, New York

Galleria Cardi, Milan, March 1999.
Esso gallery, NY
Museum of Contemporary Art, Sarajevo.
Bornholms Kunstmuseum, Helligdommen

Weisman Art Museum, Minneapolis
Galerie Klosterfelde, Berlin
Weisman Art Museum

Galerie Nathalie Pariente, Paris
Artiscope (Zaira Mis), Bruxelles
Sperone Westwater, New York
University of South Florida Contemporary Art Museum
Curt Marcus Gallery, New York
Edward Tyler Nahem Fine Art, New York

Musée national d'art moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris
Palais des Expositions, Rome
Centre de Culture Contemporaine, Barcelona

La Biennale di Venezia, Italian Pavillion
Esso Gallery, New York
Lindig in Paludetto, Nürnberg
Fonds règional d'art contemporain de Picardie, Paris
Galerie Guy Bärtschi, Geneva
Edward Tyler Nahem Fine Art, New York
Sperone Westwater, New York
David Winton Bell Gallery, List Art Center, Brown University, Providence

Galerie Guy Bärtschi, Geneva

Timothy Taylor Gallery, London
MOCA at the Geffen Contemporary, Los Angeles, Spring

For the latest exhibitions of the artist, please see the Appointments' Archive