Lot 57
  • 57

ALIGHIERO BOETTI | Untitled (July 23, 1988)

250,000 - 350,000 GBP
381,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Alighiero Boetti
  • Untitled (July 23, 1988)
  • embroidery on canvas
  • Canvas:  43  3/4  x 45  1/2  inches


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

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.