Thomas Monahan

Fine Art

Valerio Adami

Valerio Adami (b. 1935) is a renowned Italian artist known for his Pop-inflected, figurative canvases and drawings. They feature flat planes of color delineated by thick black lines in the style of French Cloisonnism (1884-1894), whose leading practitioners – Emile Bernard, Louis Anquetin, and Paul Gauguin – took their cue from the ancient ceramic technique of pouring color into wire compartments. But while French Cloisonnists typically produced paintings of detailed shading and detail, Adami’s works are hyper-stylized, borrowing, like many Pop artists, the language of advertising and photographic reproduction to produce very flat compositions of color and line.

Born in Bologna, Adami studied painting under Felice Carena before he was admitted into the Accademia di Brera in 1951. Spending some time in Paris in the mid-fifties, he came into contact with Roberto Matta, Wifredo Lam and Oskar Kokoschka, who became prominent influences on his work. He held his first exhibition in 1957 as he began travelling back and forth between Italy and Paris before finally settling down in Arona, Italy at Lago Maggiore. This stationary existence would be short lived, however, as five years later he began spending time in New York and London, where he produced numerous works revolving around urban existence.

During this time his work was still largely expressionistic, but by his 1964 solo exhibition in Kassel he adopted more French Cloisonnist tendencies. He also began tackling more overtly political topics in his work, incorporating references to modern European history, literature, philosophy, and mythology. Taking notice of these shifts, noted literary critic Jacques Derrida devoted a long essay to his work titled “+R: Into the Bargain,” using the artist’s drawings as a framework for "the letter and the proper name in painting," as Derrida wrote, with reference to "narration, technical reproduction, ideology, the phoneme, the biographeme, and politics."

Trips to India, the United States, and Israel followed, and in the 70s and 80s Adami embarked on collaborative film and book projects and continued to make art, which culminated in a major retrospective at the Centre Pompidou, Paris, in 1986.

A selection of works


Valerio Adami was born on the 17th March in 1925 in Italy. His first drawings in Milan were of ruins; the bombing raids and skies lit up by incendiary flares had left an enduring impression in his early years.
Attends the Leo XIII Jesuit College in Milan. Begins painting at the studio of Felice Carena in Venice. Meets Ezra Pound and Oscar Kokoschka. Academy of Brera in Milan for 5 years.
Makes his first trip to Paris where he meets Matta and Wilfredo Lam who become life-long friends.
Makes his first trip to London, where he meets Francis Bacon and William Scott.
Participates at the Italian Artists Exhibition at the Jewish Museum of New York.
Roland Penrose invites him to exhibit at the ICA in London. Marries Camilla. Meets regularly with Jim Dine and Richard Hamilton.
Invited to show his work at the Documenta III in Kassel.
Spends his winter in New York, taking up residence at the Chelsea Hotel. Hosted by Cuba, spends 3 months in Havana.
The Venice Biennale dedicates a room to his work. The catalogue includes a text by his friend Carlos Fuentes, Líneas para Adami. Features in Dada Surrealism and their Heritage at the MOMA in New York.
Stays in Caracas for a major one-man show at the Museo de Bellas Artes. Befriends Octavio Paz in Mexico City.
Retrospective at the Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris. Represented by Galerie Maeght in Paris.
In Paris, befriends philosopher Jacques Derrida. Designs poster for Glas, which is to become an icon of deconstructionism. Derrida dedicates to his work the essay + R (pas dessus le marché).
First trip to India followed by a long journey through Scandinavia.
Exhibition at the Museo de Arte Moderno in Mexico City. The Israel Museum hosts a retrospective. Takes up residence in the Principality of Monaco. Travels to Greece. Italo Calvino writes Quattro fiabe d’Esopo per Valerio Adami.
Major retrospective at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris. Stops dating his paintings.
The French State commissions a portrait of the composer Pierre Boulez. Also produces a large-scale fresco for the façade of the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris.
Major retrospective at the IVAM Centre Julio Gonzáles in Valencia. Octavio Paz writes La línea narrativa, dedicated to his work.
Makes four large wall paintings for the Park Hyatt Hotel in Tokyo designed by the architect Kenzo Tange. Has a one-man show at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art in Israel.
Retrospectives in Florence and in Bochum.
Inauguration of an exhibition at the Museo de Bellas Artes in Buenos Aires. An Italian edition of his notebooks is published. Sets up the Fondazione Europea del Disegno, in Meina, on Lake Maggiore.
Prepares the Opera stage for Der Fliegende Holländer by Richard Wagner. His book Dessiner. La gomme et le crayon, is published by Editions Galilée.
Gives a series of lectures in France and Europe on Cézanne, in the painter’s studio in Aix-en-Provence; on Ferdinand Léger at Musée Chagall in Nice; on drawing at the University of Valencia.
Makes two large wall paintings for the new Mandarin Hotel at Columbus Circus in New York.
Retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Lisbon.
French philosopher Michel Onfray writes Le chiffre de la peinture. L’œuvre de Valerio Adami.
Staatliche Graphische Sammlung, München (Germany) Städtische Kunsthalle Mannheim, Mannheim (Germany) Museo d’Arte Moderna, Rome (Italy) Museo d’Arte moderna, Lissone (Italy) Galleria d’Arte Moderna, Bergamo (Italy)
Musée d’Art Moderne, Liège (Belgium) Museum van Heedendaagse Kunst, Gand (Belgium) Rotterdam Museum, Rotterdam (Holland) Staatliche Graphische Sammlung
Invited as ‘master of drawing’ to give a course on the metaphysics of the body during the Schwäbischer Kunstsommer in Irsee (Germany).
Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (France) Museo de Bellas Artes de Asturias, Oviedo (Spain) Musée National d’art Moderne/Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (France)
Musée Cantini d’Art Moderne de Marseille (France) Musée d’Art Moderne de Grenoble (France)
Museum of Modern Art, Minneapolis (U.S.A.) Musée Picasso, Antibes (France) Musée d’Art Moderne, Saint-Etienne (France) Musée de Strasbourg (France) Fondation Maeght, Saint Paul de Vence (France)
Museo d’Arte Moderna Palazzo Reale, Milan (Italy) Fondacción Miro, Barcelona (Spain) Collection de l’État Français Museo de Arte Moderno, Caracas (Venezuela) Mc.Crory Corporation, New York (U.S.A.) Museum of Modern Art, Pittsburgh (U.S.A.)
Musée des Beaux Arts, Brussels (Belgium) Amos Anderson Art Museum, Helsinki (Finland) Maija and Urpo Lahtinen Foundation, Villa Urpo, Tampere (Finland) Museum of Art, Tel Aviv (Israel) Frissiras Museum, Athens (Greece)