Marco Tirelli was born in 1956 in Rome, where he lives and works. In his hometown he attended the Academy of Fine Arts, graduating in scenography with Toti Scialoja. After the first exhibitions in the second half of the 1970s, his first participation in the Venice Biennale, with a personal room in the Aperto 82 section, was held in 1982.
In the 1980s he took part in numerous group exhibitions in Italy and abroad; among them those at PAC in Milan and at the XI Quadriennale in Rome (1986); Dal ritorno all’ordine al richiamo alla pittura 1920-1987, a traveling exhibition in the museums of Oslo, Helsinki, Darmstadt and Bielefeld (1987); Diptych, Aspects of Abstract and Figurative Art in Italy, traveling in the museums in Istanbul, Ankara and Tel Aviv (1989). The 1990s opened with the exhibition at the American Academy in Rome, which showcased a series of his drawings with some Wall Drawings by Sol LeWitt, followed by his participation in the XLIV Venice Biennale with a solo section. Among the exhibitions in which he took part in the decade are the Biennials in Sydney (1990) and São Paulo (1991), Prospect '93 at the Kunsthalle in Frankfurt (1993) and the XII Quadriennale in Rome (1996).
In 2001 he presented a site-specific installation at the Volume! in Rome, in which he committed painting to an environmental dimension. In 2002 the Institut Mathildenhöhe in Darmstadt dedicated to him an important anthological exhibition, re-proposed the following year at the Gallery of Modern Art in Bologna. With the San Lorenzo group he exhibited in 2005 at Mart in Rovereto and in 2006 at Villa Medici in Rome, where the French Academy is based.
Other important exhibition events followed, including the anthology at MACRO, Rome (2012) and the solo section in the exhibition Vice Versa in the Italian Pavilion at the LV Biennale in Venice (2013). Between 2016 and 2017 he exhibited at the Fondazione Cerere in Rome, at the Musée d'art moderne et contemporain in Saint-Etienne Métropole and in the Sala delle Pietre of the Municipal Palaces of Todi. In 2018, after having held numerous solo exhibitions abroad, in Switzerland, Hong Kong and Antwerp, he created for MAXXI in Rome the work Proteo then, from 2019, in the museum's collection.
His works are part of the collections of some of the most relevant national and international museums and institutions including MAXXI Museo Nazionale delle arti del XXI secolo – Rome; Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Rome; MACRO - Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, Rome; Ministero degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale - Collezione d’Arte alla Farnesina, Rome; Parlamento Europeo - Collezione d’Arte, Bruxelles; MART - Museo di arte moderna e contemporanea di Trento e Rovereto, Rovereto; Centro per l’Arte Contemporanea Luigi Pecci, Prato; Palazzo Fortuny, Venice; Albertina Museum, Vienna; Mumok - Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig, Vienna; Kahosiung Museum of Fine Arts, Taiwan.