Alighiero Boetti - Artist
Alighiero Boetti was an Italian artist who lived from December of 1940 to February of 1994. Boetti’s mother was a violinist and his father an attorney, both of whom may have influenced his love of learning. Although he began his education in the field of business at the University of Turin in his hometown, he soon realized he wanted to create art and study a wide range of theoretical interests.
His study of philosophy centered on the writing of German author Hermann Hesse. In the world of art, Boetti was inspired by the works of Paul Klee, a professor immersed in the German Bauhaus movement, which profoundly influenced early 20th century art, graphic design, architecture, industrial design, interior design, and typography. Boetti also held fast to his lifelong interest in music and mathematics.
At the age of seventeen, Boetti became enamored with the works of German painter Alfred Otto Wolfgang Schulze (1913 – 1951), who was one of the most prominent of the Lyrical Abstraction pioneers and was part of the Tachisme movement. Boetti was also interested, at this time, in the characteristics of Argentine-born Italian artist Lucio Fontana (1899 -1968), who was a sculptor and the founder of the Spatialism movement. Boetti’s personal work at this time, however, seemed most influenced by Russian oil-painter Nicolas de Stael.
The artist took up residence in Paris at the age of twenty and studied engraving. It was there that he met and married Annemarie Sauzeau, with whom he had two children. The artists who surrounded and befriended Boetti, including Luciano Fabro, Giulio Paolini, Mario Merz, Michelangelo Pistello, and others, made up the community in which Boetti became an established artist and one of the most important members of the short-lived Arte Povera movement.
In the late 1960s and into the 1970s, the Arte Povera movement came into being, but was considered radical by many art circles. In literal interpretation, Arte Povera means “poor art,” but that was not exactly what was meant by the term in this case. The movement had to do with using materials and practices beyond the traditional tools of the artist. Much like the upcycling trend of today, artists began to use twigs, rags, dirt, and other elements that would disrupt and rattle the norms of contemporary art of that time. Experts say the movement was Italy’s contribution to the conceptual art idea, just as Japan added the mono-ha concept which incorporated this same theme.
In the 1970s, Boetti traveled to Afghanistan, where he became intrigued by this country’s traditional embroidery crafts. In 1974, Boetti declared that his work, The Map, was an example of “ultimate beauty.” During this stage of his life, Boetti, who was interested in the idea of “twinning”, and who displayed in his work opposing factors such as error and perfection or order and disorder, renamed himself Alighiero “e” (meaning “and”) Boetti.He even altered a picture of himself so that the photograph seemed to show Boetti holding the hand of his twin.
Boetti, throughout his career, was interested in collaboration and used “chance” as a catalyst for many of his works. When creating his art in Afghanistan, he handed his designs and ideas to Afghan embroiderers, but allowed them the freedom of selecting and mixing colors, and, in the end, the final look of the work. From time to time, workers would run out of thread in a necessary color. If a certain color of blue was not available, they would substitute yellow. orange, or any color of which they had an ample amount.
In the same way, Boetti’s ballpoint pen drawings were made with the help of his friends. His companions were asked to fill in portions of the multi-part works with puns, puzzles, codes, or scrambled letters of the alphabet.An example of this style is his “Ononimo” (1973), made up of eleven different panels.
The untimely death of the artist in 1994 from a brain tumor, only two years after marrying his second wife, Caterina Raganelli in 1992, resulted in posthumous exhibitions in Madrid, Vienna, Frankfurt, Rome, and the United States. On the Museum of Modern Art website is a summation of the 2012 exhibition of Boetti’s works, entitled Game Plan. The writer says this exhibition:
“…presents both the diversity and the consistency of Boetti’s practice; it also illustrates his idea that the artist, rather than inventing new objects, simply points to what already exists in the world in order to give it new meaning. Articulated through pithy phrases such as “bringing the world into the world” and “giving time to time,” Boetti’s guiding principles are the thematic threads that carry through the exhibition.”