Luigi Ontani
Grillo Mediolanum (detail), 1995
polychrome ceramics and pure gold
95 x 47 x 46 cm
ph. Paolo Vandrasch

Luigi Ontani

Luigi Ontani (Montovolo, 1943) is a leading figure of Italian contemporary art whose work is recognised on an international level. After studying at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Bologna, he was called up for military service. In the 1960s, he developed his “pleonastic objects”, casts of colourful domestic objects in scagliola plaster. Towards the end of the 1960s, Ontani evolved his personal style, making use of film and photography (enlargements, miniatures, painted photographs), identifying with subjects from history, art or literature and bringing together eastern and western influences and traditions. This led to the first tableaux vivants, in which the artist himself was a protagonist as he identified with figures from mythology, culture and the sacred and the profane. What distinguishes these compositions is an absolute lightness and playfulness with a latent critical spirit, cultured but never paraded: the narcissistic element always imparts an idea of art as living and present. The year 1970 saw the first solo show at the Galleria San Fedele in Milan, presented by Renato Barilli. Ontani moved to Rome in the 1970s, where he exhibited with Fabio Sargentini’s Galleria L’Attico and received his first major national and international recognition. In 1977, he exhibited at the important Sonnabend Gallery in New York.


The artist was featured in exhibitions in the world’s leading museums such as Italian Art Now: An American Perspective at the Guggenheim Museum in New York in 1982 – and in the principal art reviews, including the Venice Biennale (1972, 1978, 1984, 1986, 1995, 2003). Among the numerous institutional solo shows in Italy and abroad, the most recent include: Luigi Ontani. Il Clown della Rosa, Villa delle Rose, Bologna (1990-1991); Luigi Ontani, Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt (1996); Luigi Ontani. 1965-2001 GaneshamUSA, PS1 Contemporary Art Center, New York (2001); GaneshaMusa, MIC – Museo Internazionale delle Ceramiche, Faenza (2006); Luigi Ontani, MAMbo, Museo d’Arte Moderna di Bologna, Bologna (2008); CapoDioMonte, Museo e Gallerie Nazionali di Capodimonte, Naples (2009); AuroboruSerpentine, The Serpentine Gallery, London (2010); CoacerVolubilEllittico a touring project visiting the Castello di Rivoli, Rivoli, Kunsthalle Bern, Bern and Le Consortium, Dijion (2011-2012); SanLuCastoMalinIconicoAttoniTonicoEstaEstEtico, Accademia di San Luca, Rome (2017) and Luigi Ontani. Alam Jiwa & Vanitas, at the Galleria d’Arte Moderna, Turin (2021-2022). Among various prizes and awards mention should be made of the President of the Republic’s Prize for Painting 2015.