Lot 57
  • 57

ALIGHIERO BOETTI | Untitled (July 23, 1988)

250,000 - 350,000 GBP
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  • Alighiero Boetti
  • Untitled (July 23, 1988)
  • embroidery on canvas
  • 112.3 by 115.8 cm. 44 1/4 by 45 5/8 in.
  • Executed in 1988.


Galerie Kaess-Weiss, Stuttgart Christie’s, New York, 15 May 2002, Lot 360

Edward Tyler Nahem Fine Art, New York

Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2002


Colour: The colour in the catalogue illustration is fairly accurate although the overall tonality it slightly paler in the original. Condition: This work is in very good condition. Very close inspection reveals a few thread pulls in places which is in keeping with the handmade construction of the tapestry. Some of the purple threads appear to have faded slightly over time as is consistent with these works and a part of their natural ageing process.
"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

Part of the legendary Arazzi grandi series, Untitled (July 23, 1988) from 1988 luminously incarnates the poetry and mystery of sense-making in radiant, richly textured colour. By amplifying the enigma of the investigable world, the present work evokes in the viewer the magical impression that accompanies the activity of decryption. Alighiero Boetti had a profound and life-long relationship with Afghanistan, and, from 1972, much of his output was manufactured by Afghan embroiderers in accordance with his sketches and instructions. Comprising sumptuous square tapestries of 25 by 25 smaller squares, each large Arazzo possesses not only subtly unique dimensions, but a distinctive and initially indiscernible interior structure of embedded matrices – belonging to one of 21 different schemas – that have to be carefully deciphered into visibility. In a densely-woven fabric, the 625 compositional units are embroidered in various colours before being overlaid by differently-coloured letters of the Latin or Persian alphabet to yield exquisite chromatic and formal combinations. The Arazzi grandi augmented the aesthetic properties of the Arazzi piccoli: embroidered pictures made up of 4 by 4 letter-squares, containing encrypted, self-reflexive sentences. Serving as the cryptological apotheosis of Boetti’s career, the Arazzi grandi – perhaps more than the Lavori a Biro or even the Mappa del Mondo – body forth Boetti’s passion for the intoxicating process of finding order in chaos. Like much of Boetti’s work, Untitled (July 23, 1988) has fascinating historical and mathematical influences. The Arazzi grandi build upon the tradition of the acrostic poem (carmina figurata) whose art historical roots, while penetrating deep into classical antiquity, are often associated with the work De Laudibus Sanctae Crucis by the Benedictine monk Rabanus Maraus (780 - 856): just as in certain of the Arazzi, palindromes were arranged by Maraus in cruciform. These comparisons only go so far, however. While the heavily encoded Benedictine texts resemble the Arazzi in their embodiment of microcosms for the investigable universe, the intelligibility of the investigated world – a necessary condition for the purpose of investigation – was, for Maraus, steered by the Catholic faith. By contrast, Boetti’s incorporation of Persian letters into his dazzling structural schemas divorces his series from a homogeneously Western and Christian art historical tradition. Indeed, like many artists of Arte Povera, Boetti was interested in reconciling the multifarious realities of disparate social groups using the most elemental of materials and subjects. Furthermore, by deliberately leaving ‘free space’ in certain of his structures, the embroiderers were asked to weave their own individual messages into the artist's carefully planned work. By pitting chance and chaos against design and order, Boetti created works that are as textured as the multitudinous perspectives that constitute their very fabric.

This work is registered in the Archivio Alighiero Boetti, Rome and is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity.