(1940 – 1994), Italy

Alighiero Boetti Biography

Italian artist Alighiero e Boetti was a conceptual artist associated with the Arte Povera movement of the 1970s, with its exuberant humour and anti-industrial poetry of the commonplace. He participated in the Venice Biennale several times, and was the subject of a posthumous tribute at the 49th Venice Biennale in 2001.

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Early Life

Boetti was self-taught, and by 17 he already had a deep interest in artists such as Lucio Fontana, Wols, and Nicolas de Staël. He had his first show with Galleria Christian Stein in Turin in 1967.

Boetti was passionate about non-western cultures, and he loved to travel to such places as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, Guatemala, and Ethiopia.

Alighiero de Boetti Artworks

In the 1970s Alighiero e Boetti's conceptually focused practice moved from low-key humorous actions to an interest in global issues. The nature of time was another preoccupation: its inevitability and how it changed perception of an artwork's meaning.

World Maps

In 1971 Boetti started making his 'Mappa' (1971—1994) series of wall-sized woven maps of the world using Afghan and Pakistani craftspeople. The works had commentaries in the margins particular to the location of the production site, and the flags within each country's shape reflected that unique global-political moment in time. He made 150 over 23 years, with the cartographic designs varying in proportion and continental shape.

Participation of Workers

Boetti liked to generate a wide range of complex projects, often subcontracting manual 'craft' tasks to chosen communities and allowing them some decision making. He would put the rudimentary structures in place, such as 10 x 10 grids for kilim rugs, and let those he employed fill in the processual detail.

Time Examined

Linked to the flags demarcating political entities—as another example of his interest in time and chance—is the Twelve Forms from June 1967 (1967—1971), a suite of 12 copper sheets. Each is etched with the shape of a country engaged in war, so that at the time the political finality of the contours could not be guaranteed. Libya, Israel, and Ireland were included.

A related example is the 1000-page book he published in 1973 entitled Classifying the Thousand Longest Rivers in the World. The planet has radically changed over the 50 years since, and Boetti's sequencing via river length is likely to be questioned, for that was intended. It was never planned to be seen as an objective declaration of geographic data, but an examination of global change.

Postal Works

Sometimes his collaborations were made with unwitting partners—such as postal authorities—when postcards or envelopes bearing travel itineraries were sent to friends at fictitious addresses, but then subsequently returned by post to the artist, who then photocopied and resent them to the next (false) stop on the holiday route, and so on—working his way sequentially through the list of aberrant destinations. One example of this pioneer artform is Postal Voyages (1969—1970).


Alighiero e Boetti has been featured globally in numerous important institutional solo and group exhibitions.

Significant solo exhibitions include__ Alighiero Boetti: Game Plan, Museum of Modern Art, New York, travelled to Tate Modern, London (2012); Alighiero e Boetti, Gagosian, New York (2001); Alighiero e Boetti, Whitechapel, London (1999); Alighiero Boetti: Mettere al mondo il mondo, Museum fϋr Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt (1998); and Alighiero Boetti 1965—1994, Galleria Civica d'Arte Moderna, Turin (1996).

Significant group exhibitions include Venice Biennale, 2001; Global Conceptualism: Points of Origin, 1950s—1980s, Queens Museum of Art (1999); Contemporary Sculpture Projects, Westfälisches Landesmuseum, Munster (1997); Documenta 7, Kassel (1982); Conceptual Art, Arte Povera, Land Art, Galleria Civica d'Arte Moderna, Turin (1970); Live in Your Head: When Attitudes Become Form: Works-Concepts-Processes-Situations-Information, Kunsthalle Bern (1969); and Arte Povera e Im spazio, Galleria La Bertesca, Genoa (1967).

His work is collected in the Archivio Boetti, Rome.


Alighiero e Boetti's website can be found here.

John Hurrell | Ocula | 2021

Alighiero Boetti Featured Artworks

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Mimetico (Camouflage) by Alighiero Boetti contemporary artwork textile
Alighiero Boetti Mimetico (Camouflage), 1967 Camouflage fabric
45 x 45 cm
Robilant+Voena Contact Gallery
(untitled) 1985 by Alighiero Boetti contemporary artwork painting
Alighiero Boetti (untitled) 1985, 1985 Paper, watercolour, pencil
70 x 50 cm
Dep Art Gallery Contact Gallery
Quando le parole sono stanche by Alighiero Boetti contemporary artwork sculpture, textile
Alighiero Boetti Quando le parole sono stanche, 1989 Peshawar embroidery on linen
109 x 112 cm
Xavier Hufkens Contact Gallery
Cieli Ad Alta Quota by Alighiero Boetti contemporary artwork painting
Alighiero Boetti Cieli Ad Alta Quota, 1988 Pencil and watercolour on paper laid on canvas
51 x 72 cm
Cardi Gallery Contact Gallery
Calligrafia by Alighiero Boetti contemporary artwork painting, works on paper, drawing
Alighiero Boetti Calligrafia, 1971 Indian ink on paper
70 x 69.5 cm
Cardi Gallery Contact Gallery
Ononimo by Alighiero Boetti contemporary artwork works on paper
Alighiero Boetti Ononimo, 1973 Ballpoint on paper, 11 parts, each 70 cm x 100 cm
Sprüth Magers Enquire
Mettere Al Mondo Il Mondo by Alighiero Boetti contemporary artwork works on paper
Alighiero Boetti Mettere Al Mondo Il Mondo, 1975-1976 Ballpoint on paper, mounted on board,
Sprüth Magers Enquire

Alighiero Boetti Recent Exhibitions

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Alighiero Boetti Represented By

Cardi Gallery contemporary art gallery in Milan, Italy Cardi Gallery London, Milan
Gladstone Gallery contemporary art gallery in 515 West 24th Street, New York, USA Gladstone Gallery Brussels, New York
Sprüth Magers contemporary art gallery in Berlin, Germany Sprüth Magers Berlin, London, Los Angeles

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