Lot 33
  • 33

Alighiero Boetti

1,200,000 - 1,800,000 GBP
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  • Alighiero Boetti
  • La primavera dell'anno millenovecentonovanta
  • signed and inscribed Jagun – Afghanistan by Afghan people on the overturn edge
  • embroidered tapestry
  • 121.7 by 222.3 by 4.5 cm. 47 7/8 by 87 1/2 by 1 7/8 in.
  • Executed in 1990.


Galleria Mazzoli, Modena

Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1991


Modena, Galleria Mazzoli, Alighiero Boetti, 1991

Modena, Galleria Civica di Modena, Palazzo S. Margherita , 1960-2000 Arte contemporanea nelle collezioni private modenesi,  February – May 1998

Vicenza, Museo di Storia Naturale; Cinto Euganeo, Museo Geopaleontologico di Cava Bomba, La natura, l’arte, la meraviglia, December 2001 – June 2002, n.p., illustrated

Modena, MATA, Il manichino della storia: L'arte dopo le costruzioni della critica e della cultura , September 2015 – January 2016, p. 237, no. 9, illustrated in colour


Colour: The colours in the catalogue illustration are fairly accurate, although the blue is lighter in the original. Condition: Please refer to the department for a professional condition report.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Alighiero Boetti’s iconic series of Mappe, of which La primavera dell'anno millenovecentonovanta is a monumental example, attest to the world’s ever changing political landscape. Produced in transcontinental collaboration with female Afghan weavers between 1971 and 1994, Boetti’s Mappe delineate an iconoclastic cartography of global relations and inaugurated a unique discourse of cultural exchange. Seen as a whole over the course of more than twenty years, the Mappe can be viewed as historical documents highlighting the fluctuations that affected countries, their borders and their flags. As extraordinary accounts of the political geography from 1971 through to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the historic dissolution of the Soviet Union, they are truly historical works.

Concepts of boundaries, maps and identity had long informed Boetti’s radical artistic practice. In his 1968 work Città di Torino (City of Turin) from the Insicuro Noncurante series, the artist adapted a monochrome map of Turin by adding the names of the artists associated to this industrial city, such as Michelangelo Pistoletto, Gilberto Zorio and Gianni Piacentino. Most notably however, it was in 1969 that he fully articulated his interest and concern for visualising territories and borders through Planisferio Politico (Political map). Using an existing printed map, Boetti drew individual flags onto its delineated countries and states. Thus re-contextualising its meaning and prompting questions of national identity, Boetti challenged concepts of the signifier and signified through the use of flags as symbols – a symbolic device that defined his later Mappe series. In Planisferio Politico the artist took as its base a printed map, a tool historically employed for the didactic purpose of identifying man’s physical place within the world. In the Mappe series, the whole practice is pushed one step further, as Boetti partially removed himself from the creative process by asking Afghan weavers to create the textiles and arranging for canvases bearing the outlines of a world map to be colourfully embroidered at the Royal School of Needlework in Kabul. Boetti established a partnership with his Afghan friend Dastaghir, who would relay Boetti’s instructions to Fatimah and Habibah, each manager of a team of female embroiderers, none of which had ever met Boetti. Testament to the collective effort employed in the creation of the Mappe, the inscription on the overturn of the present work reads Jagun – Afghanistan by Afghan people. This effective separation between plan and execution was an essential conceptual experiment, and one that echoed Boetti’s belief that the world is characterised by the ancient principles of ordine e disordine (order and disorder). 

As Tate curator Mark Godfrey has explained: “Boetti’s involvement with Afghanistan can be seen therefore to have had a considerable impact on his thinking about the identity of the art work and the nature of its production. Working with embroiderers meant letting the work be determined by other people, opening up not just to new materials but to their traditions of colour and, as a consequence, challenging sexist and nationalist biases, and the conventions of the art market which did not recognise the category of mass-produced unique art work” (Mark Godfrey, Alighiero e Boetti, London 2009, p. 221).  In line with Boetti’s rejection of singular authorship in favour of plurality and collective creativity, Boetti’s Mappe are a meditation on what binds and divides humanity. As observed by Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, Boetti's Mappe “act as a metaphor for the fluidity of human relationships and communities” (Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, Arte Povera, London 1999, p. 85). As such, La primavera dell'anno millenovecentonovanta is a virtuous paradigm for the fragility of social relations, as well as a profound testament to the tenor of cross cultural exchange, and is as relevant today is it was two decades ago.