Map Art

Alighiero Boetti at MoMA is the Daily Pic by Blake Gopnik

The Daily Pic: Alighiero Boetti colored outside the lines.

(Collection Giordano Boetti, Rome © 2012 Estate of Alighiero Boetti/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/SIAE, Rome)

This is one of the last of the world maps designed by the Italian artist Alighiero Boetti and embroidered by Afghan craftspeople, in exile in Pakistan in 1994 – which was also the year of the artist’s death. Boetti is the subject of a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, which I wrote about in this week’s international edition of Newsweek. His maps (there are close to 200 of them) ought to seem like rigorous works of conceptual art. After all, Boetti abandons all artistic intuition in favor of a system: Their design’s determined by world politics, their colors and decoration are determined by the world’s national flags, and their execution has been literally put in other people’s hands. And yet these pieces seems mellow and charming. I think that’s because the system itself – like so many of the “instruction sets” of conceptualism – is itself more poetic than rational. It’s as much based on intuition and inspiration as any oil painting might be.

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