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PRINT May 2009

DIVIDED INTERESTS: THE ART OF ALIGHIERO BOETTI

Between the abundance of postwar Italy’s “economic miracle” and the ascetic bent of Conceptual art, the artist ALIGHIERO BOETTI took up the multiple implications of making and thinking, consumption and revolution, local and global. His remarkable oeuvre spans both laborious craft and humorous Duchampian gesture; he went so far as to rename himself Alighiero e Boetti in 1972, the “and” a nod to the doubled demands on artists to be at once star persona and withdrawn auteur. On the occasion of a major retrospective of Boetti’s work at the Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Donna Regina (MADRE) in Naples, on view until May 11, Artforum asked critic and curator MARK GODFREY to examine the artist’s twinned and protean practices.

IN 1967, ON THE CUSP of Arte Povera’s inception, Alighiero Boetti produced the editioned poster Manifesto, which featured a list of young Italian artists flanked by a grid of symbols. The reference to the Futurist Manifesto was unmistakable given this title, yet while Filippo Marinetti’s 1909 text had been published in Le Figaro to reach a large audience, Boetti created his Manifesto for private distribution, tacitly acknowledging that for a generation of artists emerging in the mid-1960s, the ambitions of the historical avant-garde were no longer worth even dreaming about. In the place of any artistic call to arms, Boetti printed names and signs, but none of his listed artists share the same array: This was hardly a group with united concerns. What’s more, no one could even fathom what the symbols meant, since Boetti kept his code under lock and key. If the word manifesto derives from

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