Born in Barlassina, Lombardy, on December 16, 1931, Valentino Vago graduated from the Brera Academy of Fine Arts and in 1955 exhibited at the 7th National Quadrennial Art Exhibition in Rome.

His first solo exhibition was in 1960, when Vago opened at the Salone Annunciata in Milan. This was followed by years of personal reflection that would be evident in his artistic production: it was between 1960 and 1965 that Valentino Vago began an operation of research and refinement that would bring him to the fore as one of the most original and brilliant artists of his generation.

In 1970, Vago took part in Pittura ’70. L’immagine attiva: an exhibition curated by Francesco Bartoli, Renzo Beltrame, and Vittorio Fagone. And indeed the 1970s were to be the decade of his international consecration as an artist. After his first Parisian exhibition at La Galerie Etienne de Cusas, in 1977 he participated in the exhibition Medunarodna izlozba likovnih umetnosti Beograd ’77, at the Muzej Savremene Umetnosti, Belgrade.

A new artistic turning point in Valentino Vago’s career came in 1979, the year he began to focus on mural painting in both public and private environments. After the intervention in the atrium of the new headquarters of the Cassa Rurale e Artigiana bank in Barlassina, in 1980 Valentino Vago painted three rooms of the Royal Palace in Milan: a temporary inhabitable work presented by Renato Barilli. In 1982, Vago painted the church of San Giulio in Barlassina all in blue. During the 1990s and early 2000s, Vago intervened in the Cristo Re church in Monza, and transformed the church of Santa Maria Ausiliatrice in San Donato into an inhabitable work, to mention just two of the most large-scale interventions carried out by the artist during this period.

Between 2004 and 2005, there was a new artistic turning point, with Vago deciding to use black tones as the dominant shades of his works. For the artist, black represents the means to reach the Invisible. The quest would actually last until 2008, when Vago transformed the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary (Doha, Qatar) into a 13,000-square-meter inhabitable work. This experience, which also had a strong media impact with CNN broadcasting the inauguration ceremony, marked a new milestone in Vago’s artistic activity, which saw him working with very light and rarefied colors, very close to white: a shade that would then be used widely by the artist. This path led Vago to discover what he would describe as “the light of the invisible.”

On June 18, 2013, the then President of the Republic Giorgio Napolitano awarded him the National President of the Republic Prize: a prestigious award dedicated to personalities of culture, art and science designated by the Accademia di Santa Cecilia, dei Lincei and di San Luca.

According to critics, the Paradiso painted at San Giovanni in Laterano in Milan represents the summary and testament of Valentino Vago’s artistic career, which definitively does away with narrative.

Valentino Vago died on January 17, 2018 at his home in Milan.

In artistic terms, for some sixty years Vago’s aim was to erase the visible world in order to reach the sphere of the Invisible and that of pure light. More specifically, he focused on light throughout his career and the impressions it generates on the canvas through the use of color.

From a practical standpoint, Vago has often transcended the physical boundaries of the canvas by going on to create what have been called environmental works within public and private spaces.

Gallery Exhibition

M77 was delighted to present Presenza: an exhibition project dedicated to artist Valentino Vago curated and conceived by Alberto Salvadori for the gallery spaces. The exhibition—open to the public from Monday, April 11 to Saturday, August 6, 2022—delved once more into the production and approach of an artist who proved to be one of the most original interpreters of his generation.

The Presenza exhibition was rooted in the idea of the presence of painting, one of the founding elements of Valentino Vago’s artistic practice. In his incessant search for pure light and in pushing beyond the sphere of the visible through the brushstroke, the artist constantly nurtured and enriched his creative drive, often trespassing the limits of the canvas and creating truly environmental works.

The exhibition path conceived for the spaces of M77 evoked the approach to painting honed by Valentino Vago, accompanying the visitor on an itinerary covering his artistic production from the late 1950s to the late 1980s, while providing an understanding of the way it comes to life. The exhibition was thus divided into two large rooms: the ground floor of the gallery, where an environmental installation evoked the idea of the presence of painting within the space, while the second floor hosted a small selection of the artist’s large works, which trace his production by offering a summary of his research and experimentation.

The works that make up the exhibition itinerary are contextualized in reference to painting as a physical presence, involving both the surface of the canvas and the exhibition space itself.