Lot 58
  • 58

ALIGHIERO BOETTI | Incontri e scontri (Meetings and Collisions)

200,000 - 300,000 GBP
345,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Alighiero Boetti
  • Incontri e scontri (Meetings and Collisions)
  • signed and variously inscribed on the reverse of the left sheet; numbered 24860 / 1-3 and variously inscribed on the reverse of the centre sheet; variously inscribed on the reverse of the right sheet
  • ballpoint pen on paper, in three parts
  • Overall:  40  1/2  x 87  3/4  inches
    Each panel:  40  1/2  x 28  1/2  inches


Galleria La Bertesca, Genoa

Giorgio Re, Lausanne

Private Collection

Sotheby’s, Milan, 27 November 2001, Lot 275 (consigned by the above)

Acquired from the above by the present owner


Houston, Contemporary Arts Museum, When 1 is 2: The Art of Alighiero e Boetti, June - October 2002, pp. 68-69, illustrated in colour (detail)

Catalogue Note

Arte Povera Introduction

In 1967 the eminent curator and art historian, Germano Celant, gave expression to a new artistic impetus emerging in Italy: Arte Povera. So called owing to a collective drive towards incorporating everyday materials into the realm of high art, this movement was given expression by a roll-call of artists at the vanguard of the Italian avant-garde. The following sequence of works encapsulates the spirit of Celant’s artistic set as it presents significant pieces by Alighiero Boetti, Luciano Fabro, Francesco Lo Savio and Michelangelo Pistoletto.

As a collective, these artists were allied in their simultaneous rejection of consumer-society in response to the economic impact of the ‘Italian miracle’ – a socio-economic boom caused by the post-war industrialisation of Northern Italy. Nonetheless, while Celant’s positing of Arte Povera was nationally centred, the importance and scope of this moment in Italian culture deeply reverberated across the international course of art history that followed in its wake.

Comprising a diverse assembly of painted and sculptural works, executed between the years of 1959 and 1988, the following sequence brings together a unique compendium of the ground-breaking themes and concepts that developed out of this artistic climate.  From Lo Savio’s early and elemental manipulation of iron in Untitled (1959), to the sumptuous fabrication of Fabro’s Edera (1969), Pistoletto’s iconic use of reflective stainless-steel in his Mirror Paintings (1962-66 and 1967), through to Boetti’s hand-crafted tapestries (1988) and biro drawings (1982), the diverse sensibilities presented here are nonetheless united by a shared concern with the poetic and conceptual capacity inherent within simple – or poveri – materials and processes, and natural forms. Informed by an aesthetic diversity of materia and a scrutiny of the theoretical implications of the surface plane, the present sequence of works emblematise the Arte Povera movement of the late-1960s.

As a true reflection of the artistic innovation that emerged across the course of the last century, the work of these artists exemplifies the global impact of the pioneering creative-consciousness that emerged out of Italy during the past-war decades.

Incontri e scontri is an immaculate instance of Alighiero Boetti’s Lavora a Biro, which he began in 1972. Comprising monochrome fields of colour, these works are rendered with innumerable strokes of ball-point pen on paper that coalesce to form an apparently aleatory sprinkling of commas. However, stacked along the left vertical border, letters of the Latin alphabet correspond to this schema, and when deciphered by the viewer, the vertical and horizontal axes impart a hidden message. In this instance, the three green-biro panels spell out the work’s title: Incontri e scontri or Meetings and Collisions. To create the Lavora a Biro Boetti enlisted a coordinator in Mariangelica de Gaetano, who in turn supervised up to thirty assistants over a number of months for the production of these works. Embracing the serendipitous nuances in cross-hatching, hue, shading and evenness of colour imparted by his method, Boetti embedded typically paradoxical and linguistically playful dictums into these works, such as ‘Mettere al mondo in mondo’ (‘putting the world into the world’) and ‘dare tempo al tempo’ (‘give time to time’). Expressing the magnetic paradoxes of Arte Povera – the reintroduction of the ordinary to itself; the regeneration of what already exists – Incontri e scontri is as much an untempered evocation of the Mediterranean elements as a work of cerebral and politically-charged conceptual art.

There is a latent metaphysics in Incontri e scontri that works upon the viewer’s imagination. By signalling the presence of letters via an absence of marks (i.e. the blank commas), linguistic expressions are represented less by actions positively produced, than by the unconscious omission of all other possible behaviours. By virtue of letters and then words coalescing into existence out of this fecund, mesmeric green, speech acts are conceived as the products of natural and organic processes, not supernatural Cartesian souls; and yet an element of choice on the part of the viewer is ineliminable. Like the star gazer who traces constellations onto the night sky, the viewer partakes in the games, built into humanly-perceptible objects, of category and order.