The Museum of Modern Art opens "Alighiero Boetti: Game Plan"

The Italian conceptual artist Alighiero Boetti gets a career retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art.



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  • Photograph: © 2012 Estate of Alighiero Boetti / Artists Rights Society

    Legnetti Colorati in "Alighiero Boetti: Game Plan" at the Museum of Modern Art

  • Photograph: © 2012 Estate of Alighiero Boetti / Artists Rights Society

    Mappa from "Alighiero Boetti: Game Plan" at the Museum of Modern Art

  • Photograph: David Allison

    "Aerei" from "Alighiero Boetti: Game Plan" at the Museum of Modern Art

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Photograph: © 2012 Estate of Alighiero Boetti / Artists Rights Society

Legnetti Colorati in "Alighiero Boetti: Game Plan" at the Museum of Modern Art

July 1–October 1, 2012 • 11 W 53rd St between Fifth and Sixth Aves (212-708-9400, Mon, Wed, Thu, Sat, Sun 10:30am–5:30pm; Fri 10:30am–8pm; additional hours June 26–Sept 25: Tue 10:30am–5:30pm. $25, seniors $18, students $14, children under 16 free. For discounts, order advance tickets at Fri 4–8pm free.

Alighiero Boetti's "Game Plan" at the Museum of Modern Art features some of the artist's best-known pieces. The brightly colored Mappa explains his obsession with cartography, and Viaggi Postali is a witty commentary on his fascination with the postal service. Colonna showcases Boetti's theory that simple materials can become something beautiful.

RECOMMENDED: Full summer museum exhibit guide


Boetti came onto the scene as part of the Conceptual Arte Povera (literally “poor art”) movement, which bucked the establishment and favored commercial materials over traditional sculptural media like marble and clay. When you enter the exhibit, which spans the Italian artist’s career chronologically from his first solo show in 1967 to his death in 1994, a central platform in the first gallery, featuring eight minimalist sculptures, greets you. The cluster of works here comprise items such as cardboard tubing, wood and metal pipes. Colonna (“column”), a giant Romanesque monolith made of cake doilies, winks at the materials used in classic forms of architecture, while Catasta (“stack”), a pile of rectangular fiber cement tubes, plays into Boetti’s idea that art doesn’t need to create anything new, but rather point out the beauty of what already exists.

Boetti is best known for his series of large-scale embroidered world maps, and you can find the original hypercolored Mappa in the sixth-floor gallery. An avid traveler, Boetti collaborated with locals from Afghanistan, Guatemala and Ethiopia to create these tapestry-like pieces, five of which are on display here. The cartographic works distinguish each country by filling in the borders with designs from its national flag. As territories changed, with nations declaring their independence and the Berlin Wall coming down, so too did Boetti’s maps.

Another of the artist’s obsessions was the postal service, and in Viaggi Postali (“postal journey”), he playfully conceived imaginary trips for 25 of his friends and family members. Boetti would send envelopes to made-up addresses all over the world. When a piece was mailed back to him, he would place it in a bigger envelope, before sending it off to another destination. He would repeat the process, transforming each packet into a Russian doll of worn envelopes with
crossed-out addresses and exotic stamps.

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Peruse some Italian art from an earlier era in the fifth-floor Futurist gallery: While Boetti expressed his ideas about travel using more avant-garde methods, the Southern Italian artist Umberto Boccioni used more conventional materials to articulate his notions about movement. Take a look at The Farewells (a chaotic depiction of a departing train), Those Who Go (slanted lines and somber faces in profile convey the emotions of leaving) and Those Who Stay (a dark portrayal of the people left behind), all part of the 1911 “States of Mind” series.

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Rizzoli Bookstore

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Rizzoli Bookstore, the three-story flagship of the Italian publishing house, carries dozens of glossy coffee-table books and magazines, many of them ideal reading for continued exploration of Italian culture. Pick up The Light of Venice ($65) in the travel section, or thumb through architecture monthly Interni ($26). Once you’ve made your selections, climb to the third floor, where you can curl up with your reading material on one of the plush benches overlooking West 57th Street. • 212-759-2424,

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