Valerio Adami was born in Bologna in 1935. He is often regarded as the Italian painter with the clearest and most celebrated French influence. He initially trained at the workshop of Felice Carena. Shortly after he moved to the Brera Academy of Fine Arts in Milan to study painting, mainly antique and neoclassical. After graduating, he obtained a position at the studio of Achille Funi, where he worked from 1951 to 1954, drawing for around eight hours a day and sharing his early expressionist-inspired pieces with his colleagues and peers. However, Adami would be quick to put those influences behind him and define his own unique visual identity. His style can be summarised as coloured shapes outlined with thick black contours treated as flat tints and devoid of shadows. Surrealist in historic influence, his style is also bears resemblance to comic book and comic strip illustrations, church glasswork and Japanese prints, which were highly popular in artistic circles since their emergence in the late 19th century.
1955 saw Adami visit Paris for the first time and marked the beginning of his love affair with the French capital. From then on, his time would be split between Rome and the City of Lights, where he would mingle with the crème de la crème of avant-garde intellectuals.
During the 1970s Adami emerged as one of the main representatives of la nouvelle figuration thanks to his unique pictorial style, which has continued to develop and intensify. Saturated and abundant colours leave no place for doubt or incompletion. One must look beyond the figurative nature of his work to understand his images as perceptive reconfigurations rather than visual references. His paintings are statements: on literature, travel, poetry and music, but above all personal and collective memory. Hence his portraits of renowned figures (James Joyce, Freud, Walter Benjamin) and depictions of historical events and landscapes (the French Revolution).
By sounding out the collective unconscious, Adami became an interesting subject for prominent aestheticians such as Jacques Derrida, Gilles Deleuze or Jean-François Lyotard. The latter divided Adami’s production into chronological chapters: the 1960s; the 1970s and the impact of consumerism on body and mind; the 1980s and the modernist renaissance; and memories of love, the metamorphosis of desire, and monuments to separation and death.
The commanding quality of his oeuvre saw it celebrated on numerous occasions around the world, such as his monumental retrospective at the Pompidou Centre in 1985 or the Grand Palais in 2008, proving that Paris adopted him just as much as he did it.
The late 1970s saw a notable shift into large-scale works, starting with the First National City Bank in Madison, Wisconsin (1973–1974). This was followed by glasswork for Vitry-sur-Seine (1985); work for the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris (1989); monumental paintings in the Gare d’Austerlitz in Paris (1992); and work for the Park Hyatt Tower Hotel in Tokyo (1993–1994).
Towards the end of his career, Adami focused on the creation of a foundation dedicated to drawing in Meina, Italy.