The present lot, Novembre 1983, by Alighiero Boetti exists as a sort of time capsule documenting the political, cultural and social climate around the globe. Through the use of imagery found on covers from a random selection of publications issued, as the title suggests in November of 1983, Boetti has condensed world events to those featured and used to sell the news. From Mickey Mouse and Ronald Reagan on the cover of Der Spiegel to a sailboat on the cover of Nautica, his work is guided by the influences of power, popularity and favor.

Without context, however, the imagery of Boetti’s work distills world events into ephemeral symbols or icons, and in this way, his work resonates with the visual culture of Pop Art. Yet, Boetti’s work stands distinctly apart; his execution, a drawing in pencil, lacks the reproductive ease and mass accessibility of other artistic mediums. Thus, this unique work stands as something more precious, as something worthy of time and consideration even if void of the larger meaning behind the images. As a result the work captures a collective memory and a record of history and culture determined by chance, a concept further highlighted by the random assortment of magazine covers featured and selected by studio assistants as opposed to a curated collection composed by the artist. Boetti would repeatedly explore concepts of chance throughout his oeuvre.

Novembre 1983 is one of Boetti’s earliest incarnations on this theme. Boetti made similar works featuring images found on magazines covers from October and December of the same year (Dicembre 1983 resides in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York) and he would expand upon the theme creating a series of twelve-panel works for entire years starting with Anno 1984. 

In a month, there were millions of images. Today, perhaps there are only a hundred. Then there will only remain this once-coloured faded copy.

Aligihero Boetti

Alighiero Boetti 1940–1994

Alighiero Boetti was born in Turin, Italy in 1940. Although he initially set out to study business at the University of Turin, he quickly found his true calling as an artist. Boetti was influenced by the work of Duchamp, and, much like Duchamp, he preferred to call his sculptures constructed out of ready-made “objects.” In the 1960s, Boetti was asked to join Arte Povera, a collective in Italy that sought to critique and subvert structures of power in their art through the use of materials like rags, cardboard, and aluminum. In 1967, he exhibited a monumental solo show of his installation art at the Galleria Christian Stein. Traveling to Afghanistan in 1971, Boetti became enamored with the masterful embroidery work produced by Afghan women. He commissioned these artisans to create works that he designed; the most famous among these works was his Mappa series. Boetti would work together with these textile artists well into the 1990s, eventually even collaborating with carpet makers to create abstract kilim carpets. Boetti passed away in 1994, but his work continues to be revered for its material diversity, intricacy, and visuals. In 2012, the Tate London exhibited a major retrospective entitled Game Plan that detailed his legacy as one of the most influential Italian artists of the decade. Boetti’s work is held in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Los Angeles Museum of Modern Art, among many others.