Alighiero Boetti: Mappe

27 Feb-7 Apr 2023


Robilant+Voena's is pleased to announce our upcoming London exhibition, Alighiero Boetti Mappe, bringing together six embroidered maps, all from private collections. The exhibition offers a rare opportunity to see these extraordinary works that are an iconic part of Boetti’s oeuvre. Individually, these maps offer a snapshot of time and place; together, they chart a geo-political history of the late twentieth century and raise questions about authorship, agency and our understanding of the world.

As a collective entity, the mappe of Alighiero Boetti (1940–1994) encapsulate the essence of an artist whose practice was simultaneously conceptual, collaborative, playful and revealing. Famously stating that he ‘invented nothing’, Boetti used the existing framework of the world map to initiate the creation of around 150 embroidered maps, each reflecting a specific geo-political reality from its moment of production.

From 1971 until his death in 1994, Boetti produced his mappe, commissioned from groups of female Afghan embroiderers. These women in turn shaped the visual outcomes of the mappe through their skilled craftsmanship, fine selection of colours, and unconscious errors – being unfamiliar with the visual codification of world geography into countries, each one designed with its national flag.

The intervention of time and unforeseen elements of chance have also shaped the appearance of the maps – uncontrollable factors that Boetti welcomed and indeed encouraged, in the mappe as in many works across his oeuvre. While influencing the visual details of each mappa at the time of making, namely changes to flags and borders, time continues to transform the meaning of the mappe as contemporary events affect our understanding of the world.

The six mappe in this exhibition date from 1978 to 1994, offering a sweeping vision of the range of maps created by Boetti. Each tapestry is unique, a testament to the skill and painstaking efforts of the women who embroidered them, and a record of the international framework at their time of creation. The borders – combinations of Italian phrases devised by Boetti, and anecdotes in Farsi contributed by the Afghan embroiderers – further distinguish each mappa, giving voice to the authors of their creation and telling the story of the context in which they were made.

Overall, these six mappe are magnificent examples of one Alighiero Boetti’s most notable creations, a testament to an artist whose vision challenged accepted truths through simple ideas, questioning our perceptions and throwing light upon the ephemeral structures of civilisation.

After showing in London, this exhibition will open in our New York gallery in late Spring.

Selected works