This retrospective, organized in collaboration with the Museo Reina Sofía in Madrid and the Tate Modern in London, will be the largest presentation outside of Italy of works by Italian artist Alighiero Boetti (1940–1994) to date. Working in his hometown of Turin in the early 1960s amidst a close community of artists that included Luciano Fabro, Mario Merz, Giulio Paolini, and Michelangelo Pistoletto, among others, Boetti established himself as one of the leading artists of the Arte Povera movement.
Organized chronologically, the exhibition will span Boetti’s entire career beginning with his sculptural works, or objects as he preferred to call them, comprised of everyday materials including wood, cardboard, and aluminum. Brought together (many for the first time since Boetti’s seminal exhibition at Galleria Christian Stein in Turin in 1967) and installed in a dense configuration inspired by the original clustered presentation, these early works convey the material experiments of the period as well as notions of measurement and chance that Boetti would play with and revise throughout his career. While Boetti is often chiefly affiliated with the Arte Povera moment, Alighiero Boetti: Game Plan will consider Boetti beyond these brief years. In 1969 Boetti began exploring notions of duality and multiplicity, order and disorder, travel and geography, and he initiated postal and map works imagining distant places. For the work Viaggi Postali, begun the summer of 1969, Boetti sent envelopes to friends, family, and fellow artists but used imaginary addresses, forwarding each returned envelope to yet another non-existent place. Boetti thus created imaginary journeys for the people he admired. In other conceptual, mail art-related works made throughout the 1970s, Boetti would use different stamps and arrange them in permutations on the envelopes to compose his art, and send postcards picturing a monument in his hometown from places around the world. The exhibition brings together these and other works related to travel, geography, and mapping, many of which relate to his extensive travels to Afghanistan, where he operated the One Hotel (archival material from which will be on view) from 1971 until the Soviet invasion in 1979. During this period, Boetti began working with local artisans to produce embroideries such as the Mappas (maps), Arazzi (word squares), and Tuttos (literally, “Everything”), important examples of which will be included in the galleries and the Marron Atrium.
An important aspect of Boetti’s oeuvre is drawing, which runs as a constant throughout his work. A monumental Biro (ball point pen) drawing from 1973, spelling out the title “Mettere a mondo il mondo (Bringing the world into the world)” points to some of Boetti’s ideas about art making that were fundamental to his practice: that the artist, rather than inventing, simply brings what already exists in the world into the work; and that everything in the world is potentially useful for the artist. This exhibition will celebrate the material diversity, conceptual complexity, and visual beauty of Boetti’s work, bringing together his ideas about order and disorder, non-invention, and the way in which the work addresses the whole world, travel, and time, proving him to be one of the most important and influential international artists of his generation.
The exhibition is organized by The Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid; and Tate Modern, London.
The exhibition is organized at The Museum of Modern Art by Christian Rattemeyer, The Harvey S. Shipley Miller Associate Curator of Drawings.