Alighiero Boetti (1940-1994)
Inaspettatamente (Unexpectedly)
signed 'alighiero e boetti' (on the reverse)
ballpoint pen on card
70 x 100cm.
Executed in 1974

This work is registered in the Archivio Alighiero Boetti, Rome.
Private Collection, Trento.
Galerie Kaess-Weiss, Stuttgart.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1994.
J. C. Ammann, Alighiero Boetti, Catalogo generale Tomo secondo, Milan 2012, no. 695 (illustrated in colour, p. 186).
Special notice
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.
Please note this lot is the property of a consumer. See H1 of the Conditions of Sale.
Brought to you by

Lot Essay

Created in 1974, Inaspettatamente (Unexpectedly) comes from Alighiero Boetti’s acclaimed series of biro works, or lavori biro, which conjure velvety, richly-textured fields of colour from the humble medium of ballpoint pen. In the present work, rhythmic waves of black ink fill the surface, shifting in texture and density; at the upper centre, the title appears in white block capitals, as if anticipating the sudden appearance of a new message from the darkness below.

While Boetti developed the concept for each lavoro biro and planned its basic layout with a grid pattern, its actual execution was left to a group of collaborators: students from his local neighbourhood of Trastevere in Rome, whom he had recruited as assistants. A similar method was used in the artist’s Arazzi and Mappe series, which relied on the technical skills of a group of Afghan embroiderers to achieve their finished look. Through these collective processes, Boetti established a form of relational aesthetics whereby he could explore a role as the conceiver but not the ultimate creator of a work of art, undermining the position of the artist as supreme genius.
Armed with a clearly defined set of rules, the lavori biro’s anonymous craftspeople would spend countless hours carefully filling the large panels with intricate layers of hatching: a meditative, time-intensive process which Boetti felt was intrinsic to the nature of the biro drawings. ‘The drawings in biro are concentrates of time’, he reflected; ‘they convey to me a physical impression of extended, immense time’ (A. Boetti, quoted in Alighiero Boetti: Mettere al Mondo il Mondo, exh. cat. Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt, p. 59).

Inaspettatamente’s shimmering expanse of darkness is imbued with the distinctive rhythm of its maker, which results in subtle textural and chromatic undulations across the composition. These variations are born of any number of different factors, from the speed, pressure and length of the individual’s stroke to their temperament on a given day, the quality of the pen used, and the gradual loss of pigment as the pen begins to run out of ink and is replaced. Revelling in the results offered by chance, error and the different hands involved, Boetti embraced the quirks this form of collaboration brought to his vision: Inaspettatamente, ‘unexpectedly’, magic emerges from his surrendering of control.

Related Articles

Sorry, we are unable to display this content. Please check your connection.

More from
The Curator's Eye: The Collection of Professor Dr Karin von Maur
Place your bid Condition report

A Christie's specialist may contact you to discuss this lot or to notify you if the condition changes prior to the sale.

I confirm that I have read this Important Notice regarding Condition Reports and agree to its terms. View Condition Report