Valerio Adami was born in Bologna on March 17, 1935. After completing his scientific studies in Milan, where in the meantime the family had moved, he decided to devote himself to painting by entering Felice Carena’s atelier in Venice, followed by the meeting in 1951 with Oskar Kokoschka, then training at the Brera Academy with Achille Funi. In 1952, after his first stay in Paris where he painted Little Bambine in seggiolino and L’asino d’Empoli, he moved to London and, at the invitation of Roland Penrose, exhibited at the Institute of Contemporary Arts. In 1962 he married Camilla, with whom he settled in Arona, on Lake Maggiore. Invited to Documenta III in Kassel by Werner Haftmann in 1964, the following year he appeared in the exhibition entitled I massacri privati, Gli omosessuali-Privacy and Le stanze a canocchiale, held in Milan, the city where in 1966 he presented Immagini con associazioni at Galleria Schwarz and at Studio Marconi. His meeting with Ezra Pound in Venice dates back to this period, then his transfer to New York, where he stayed at the Chelsea Hotel: here the large canvases dedicated to hotel rooms, latrines, homosexuals were born. “Toilettes, hotels, massacri privati”, as Adami writes, “are ways of life, the other nervous system when I go out with my camera”.
1968 is the year of some important exhibitions, such as the Venice Biennale, in which Valerio Adami figures with a personal room, and the exhibitions held at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston and at the Jewish Museum in New York. In 1969 with the writer Carlos Fuentes, author of the text Lineas para Adami drawn up the year before, he stayed in Mexico and Venezuela, in Caracas, where the Museo de Bellas Artes hosted one of his personal exhibitions. In 1970 he exhibited in Paris at the Galerie Maeght, which since then became the main point of reference for his work, and the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris dedicated a major exhibition to him, which was later transferred to Ulm. The feature film he made in 1971, Vacanze nel deserto, was awarded at the Toulon Film Festival.
During his stay in Bavaria in 1974 Valerio Adami published the volume Das Reich-10 Lektionen uber das reich with the German writer Helmut Heissenbuttel. Other important editorial events follow: the book by Marc Le Bot Valerio Adami. Essai sur le formalisme critique, published in 1975, and the essay by Jacques Derrida dedicated to his work, published in the 1977 volume La verité en peinture. In 1979 he stayed in Mexico City on the occasion of an important one-man show held at the Museo de Arte Moderno, which was then transferred to the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. In 1980 Italo Calvino is the author of uattro favole d’Esopo per Valerio Adami. In 1981 he settled in the Principality of Monaco, while continuing to travel around Europe, in Madrid and London. He exhibited in 1983 at the Fuji Television Gallery in Tokyo and in 1984 in New York, the year in which he stopped dating his paintings. In December of the following year, the Center Georges Pompidou in Paris dedicated a large retrospective to him curated by Alfred Pacquement, which was later transferred to the Palazzo Reale in Milan; the rich catalogue of works is introduced by Dore Ashton. He join the Board of Directors of the Collège International de Philosophie. From 1986 is the scenography he created in the central square in Geneva for the 450th anniversary of Calvin’s reform, and from 1987 are two monumental pictorial works on the theme of the Viaggio di Perseo for the atrium of the Gare d’Austerltz in Paris. In the same year he travels to the Scandinavian countries where he exhibits in various galleries.
In 1989 he published Le règles du montage and, on the occasion of the bicentenary of the French Revolution, created a large fresco for the façade of the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris. In 1990 he presented an anthologic exhibiion at the Ivam Center in Valencia, with texts by Octavio Paz and José Jiménez. For the Park Hyatt Hotel project in Tokyo, designed by architects Kenzo Tange and John Morford, Valerio Adami created four large paintings in 1993. In 1995 the Institut du Dessin was founded. After the vast exhibitions proposed in Florence in Palazzo Medici Riccardi in the spring of 1996 and at the Museum Bochum in Germany in the following autumn, in 1997 he exhibited at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art and, presenting Gli Adami di Adami, at the Refettorio delle Stelline in Milan. He creates the poster for the Spoleto Festival for Giancarlo Menotti, which dedicates a personal exhibition to him. In 1998 the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes in Buenos Aires hosted a large retrospective dedicated to him. A collection of his writings and reflections on art was published in 2000 with the title Sinopie; in Meina, on Lago Maggiore, he creates the European Drawing Foundation.