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Alighiero e Boetti
          Alighiero e Boetti
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1940 Turin - 1994 Rome
The harmony of dualism was an essential principle in the thoughts, feelings and actions of Alighiero Boetti, who attained international acclaim with his colourful embroidered pictures ("Arazzi").
In a photomontage with the title "I Gemelli" (English: The Twins), he not only combined two photos of himself into a double self-portrait; but in the subtitle, the dualistic principle is expressed once again: Alighiero e Boetti. In the words of the artist: "Alighiero is the child-like part, outwardly directed, determining a familiar environment. Alighiero, that is what I am named and called by those who know me. Boetti is more abstract, if only because a surname is itself yet another category."
Alighiero Boetti is an autodidact. His artistic career begins in the second half of the sixties. After his first exhibition in 1967, he becomes associated with the Arte Povera movement. He is interested in oriental culture and other related disciplines, such as philosophy and alchemy.
In 1971, he travels to Afghanistan for the first time. He stays there for one month and, through 1979 - the year of the invasion of the Russian army - returns every year for longer periods of time. It is also in 1971 that he commissions his first embroidered pictures, which are crafted by Afghani women. The production of these embroidered pictures continues until his death.
"From the very outset of his career as an artist, Alighiero tried to find an artistic form suitable for expressing the fundamental structures of the world which he discerned in appropriate aesthetic terms", writes Rolf Lauter. "When the works were in the realisation phase, Alighiero often resorted to a dialogical communication system between the artist, on the one hand, and collaborators, assistants and outside parties handling the work, on the other."
The placing of texts and word into grid-like structures plays a special role in this process. The "Arazzi piccoli", for example, are generally comprised of four by four, but often also of five by five or more squares of letters, which are embroidered in random colour combinations. Read from top to bottom, they reveal sayings such as "Dare tempo al tempo" (To give time time), "Ordine e Disordine" (Order and Disorder), etc.
The "Arazzi grandi", on the other hand, are comprised of 25 x 25 squares of letters. "Twenty-five is the square of the holy number five and is therefore also the centre of magical squares. It consists of the sum of the numbers 1 + 3+ 5 + 7 + 9, and thus contains all the holy numbers which can be used in magic." (Boetti)
Among the most widely known works by Alighiero Boetti are the embroidered maps of the world, which derive from conceptual works of the years 1967 to 1971. In September 1971, he took the first preliminary drawing to Afghanistan. Once the artist specified the colours of the threads to be used, four women then worked simultaneously on the embroidery, which, depending on the format, took between one and two years to complete.
Equally popular among collectors are Boetti's "Lavori Biro" (Ballpoint Pen Works). The works in this group were executed with "common" ballpoint pens on paper, in the colours blue, black, red and green. Some of these were later mounted on canvas spanned on stretcher frames, while others were mounted on cardboard and placed in Plexiglas frames.
At least with the earlier works, the artist asked the individuals working on the pictures to produce hatches which conformed as much as possible to a basic grid of small squares in order to make the technique used to create the pictures more visible. Later, the structures varied according to the individuals' own patterns.
"The extent of the delegated work varies from the minimum, as in the case of the Biro (Ballpoint Pen), where there is nothing creative to do at all, to the maximum, as in the case of the Tutto (Everything). I asked the assistants to draw everything, all possible forms, abstract and figurative, and to join these together until there was no space left on the paper. Then I brought the drawings to Afghanistan, where I had them embroidered with threads of ninety different colours, whereby I stipulated that the exact same amount of each colour had to be used."
From 1987 onwards, Boetti works together with his Iranian assistant Mahshid Mussari, who collected the most varied motif patterns for the realisation of the last and largest "Tutto". After weeks of preparatory work, the oversized canvas could finally be sent to Peshawar in December 1993. After ten months, the completed work could finally be sent back to Rome, although Alighiero was never able to see it himself. He died in 1994 as a result of a brain tumour.
This extraordinary work, which measures circa 2.5 x 6.5 meters (circa 8 x 21 feet), is now in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in Frankfurt am Main. This "Tutto" is a symbol for the complexity of the world, its cultural diversity and its development; and, especially in light of the most recent political events, it can be viewed once again from an entirely new perspective.

Selected Solo Exhibitions:
1996 Alighiero Boetti 1965 - 1994. Galleria Civica d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Turin. Musée d'Art Moderne, Villeneuve s'Ascq, and Museum moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig, Vienna. Catalogue.
1998 Alighiero Boetti: Mettere al mondo il mondo. Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt am Main, and Galerie Jahrhunderthalle Hoechst. Catalogue, edited by Rolf Lauter.