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Alighiero Boetti

(1940—1994)


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Italian artist, born in Turin. He had no formal art training but became interested in contemporary art through exhibitions seen in his native city. He had his first solo exhibition in 1967 and later that year took part in the Arte Povera exhibition in Genoa, the first occasion that the tendency was identified. Of the artists associated with it, Boetti was the most concerned with ideas and closest to Conceptual art. The Yearly Lamp (c.1966) is programmed to switch itself on at random for just eleven seconds every year. In Manifesto (1967) he printed out the names of fifteen Italian artists and placed beside them a series of symbols. The meaning of these symbols, Boetti said, had been deposited with a lawyer and would be revealed to anyone who paid a fee. Despite extensive research, the lawyer has never been tracked down. Gemelli (Twins) (1968) is a postcard sent to friends and associates which uses photomontage to show Boetti walking hand in hand with himself. From 1972 onwards Boetti signed all his work ‘Alighiero e Boetti’ as though it was the product of two joined personalities. He said: ‘Alighiero is the more infantile side, more external…Boetti is more abstract, precisely because a surname is a category.’ One of Boetti's projects was a publication listing the longest rivers in the world. This turned out to be more problematic and less objective than might be expected because of ‘partial information’, the problems of language, and ‘the intangible nature of water’. Boetti spent much time in the 1970s in Afghanistan before the Soviet invasion. He was introduced to the local craft of embroidery and it was in collaboration with craft-workers there and in Pakistan that he made the maps of the world which are his most celebrated works. Each country is identified totally with its flag, a device which emphasizes the arbitrary nature of national boundaries. Boetti died in Rome from a brain tumour.

From A Dictionary of Modern and Contemporary Art in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Art.


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