The life of the artist

Valentino Vago (1931-2018) was one of the most original interpreters of his generation, who for almost sixty years tried to cancel the visible world to reach the invisible and pure light.

Valentino Vago with Giorgio Napolitano

In 2012, Valentino Vago was endorsed for the Premio Presidente della Repubblicaby the members of Accademia di San Luca (Saint Luke’s Academy), and was awarded with the renowened Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2014, he became academician ofSan Luca.

The pictorial effusion of his art often strayed from the canvas creating sheer ambient paintings for public and private buildings interiors.


Guido Ballo presented Vago’s first important  solo show at Salone Annunciata, Milan.


Having doubted and questioned the meaning of his work for years, Vago unveiled the intention to start a new and sound artistic journey. “What remains is the line which does not want to suggest a horizon as much as it wants to show the sharp edge of depths with no beginning and no end; threshold of the breach between eyes and thoughts.” (Accame, 1993). The beginning of this quest was represented by Linea Nera 1963 (Black Line, 1964) and the first Orizzonti 1964/1965 (Horizons, 1964/1965).


Vanni Scheiwiller edited his first monograph. The volume, whose text was written by Marco Valsecchi, was presented at Galleria Annunciata in Milan during Vago’s solo show.L’approdo, a programme broadcasted by RAI, dedicated  an extensive report to the show.


Vago participated to the exposition Pittura ’70. L’immagine attiva,curated by Francesco Bartoli, Renzo Beltrame and Vittorio Fagone. The traveling exhibition represented the first Italian expression, between 1970 and 1976, aiming to claim back the value of painting.


One of the exhibition rooms of XI Bienal Sao Paulo was dedicated to Vago.

@mario carrieri


Many of Vago’s works are exhibited internationally. Galleria Morone 6 organised a solo show with texts of Flavio Carioli and Paolo Fossati. The exhibition was hosted in several Italian and German cities for almost three years.

Galerie Etienne de Causas organised Vago’s first Parisian exhibition. In 1977, Vago participated to Medunarodna izlozba likovnih umetnosti Beograd ’77, at the Muzej Savremene Umetnosti in Belgrade. Pia Vivarelli was in charge of choosing amongst the Italian artists; she picked three: Michelangelo Pistoletto, Valentino Vago, and Michele Zaza. The following year,  Vago was presented by Miklos Varga at the Quadrum gallery, in Lisbon.


Valentino Vago’s longing for wider spaces for his painting was eventually fulfilled. Cassa Rurale e Artigiana di Barlassina asked him to paint the entrance hall of its new branch.  In 1980, he was asked to paint Stanze in scala tonale(Rooms in tonal scale) at Palazzo Reale in Milan, which was presented by Renato Barilli. By then, Vago had already started his quest for a type of art unlimited in its dimensions.

In 1982, he painted completely blue his first church San Giulio a Barlassina.  


PAC – Padiglione d’Arte Contemporanea in Milan dedicated to Vago a solo show Ritmiche dell’ascesa(The metrics of the ascent). The text for the catalogue was written by Francesco Bartoli.


The talented collector Maria Cernuschi Ghiringhelli organised an exhibition of Vagos’s works of art at Museo d’arte contemporanea Villa Corce in Genoa.


Three of the most important interpreters of the late XIXth and early XXth century, Longoni, Asnago and Vago were born in Barlassina, a small town situated between Como and Milan. An extensive volume was dedicated to the three artists by Luciano Caramel.


L’esperienza della luce (Experiencing Light) is the title of Vago’s monograph by  Giovanni Maria Accame.

@paolo vandrash


During the summer, he worked on Chiesa del Cristo Re, in Monza. In autumn at Biassono, in Brianza, he painted the church of San Francesco alle Cascine. The following year he worked on  Chiesa di Santa Maria Ausiliatrice in San Donato Milanese.
In January 1998 in Vilmius, Lithuania, he was asked to transform the walls of the presbytery in the chapel, in the new seminary. At Villa Burba, Rho, Vago created a temporary work of art in occasion of the exhibition Lo Spazio ridefinito (Redifined space) curated by Francesco Tedeschi.
In 2000, Vago was invited in Rome by CEI – Conferenza Episcopale Italiana, where he worked on a little chapel in the Casa Assistenti dell’Azione Cattolica.
After that, in Correggio, he painted the new ward of Riabilitazione Neurologica, in San Sebastiano hospital. Between 2001 and 2002, he completely transformed the 7000 metres square of San Pietro e Paolo parish in Rovello Porro.


The volume edited by Laura Saladin was released:Valentino Vago. La Pittura murale civile e religiosa. The book is an accurate analysis of Vago’s living art, which includes essays written by Luciano Caramel, Cecilia De Carli, Andrea Dall’Asta, and Francesco Tedeschi. In July, the Boschi museum home was opened to the public, the last room exhibits three of Vago’s works of art from the 60s.


The Vatican published the volume edited by Camillo Ruini, La verità vi fara liberi. Catechismo della Conferenza Episcopale per la vita cristiana 2. All the works of art published in the volume cover the period between V and XII century. Vago is the only contemporary artist included in the book.


Between 2004 and 2005, the tones of black became dominant in his works. This color had always prevailed on his palette, in fact for Vago, black represented the impetus to reach the Invisible.
In May, the Annunciata and galleria Montrasio hosted an extensive survey exhibition on his black works of art. The following summer, Vago worked on Chiesa di San Giulio Prete, in Villaggio Sereno, Brescia. Painting the back of the altar black, brings to its peak Vago’s exploration of this colour.  


In 1996, two Milanese architects Magnoli and Carmellini were asked to design a church in Doha, Qatar, on the land donated to the catholic community by the Emir Hamad Khalifa Al-Thani. Vago was involved in the project since the begining. Ten years later, he transformed the church into a 13,000 metres square of living art. International press was present at the opening of Nostra Signora del Rosarioon March 13, 2008. CNN broadcasted the event almost entirely.   
Consequently, his work on canvas radically changed. The artist found an increasingly intense light, the color was clear, less dense and often ending in plain white. Vago found what he called “The light of the Invisible”.


On the 21 of November, Vago was invited to the artists meeting by Benedetto XVI, who invited a small group of international artists to the Sistine Chapel, as Paolo VI did.


Vago’s 80th birthday was celebrated in Milan with an extensive solo show at Museo Diocesiano, curated by Paolo Biscottini. By the end of the year, Skira had published Vago – Catalogo ragionato delle opere dipinte, 1948-2010. The texts in the catalogue were edited by a scientific commitee officiated by Flavio Caroli and formed by Flavio Aresi, Claudio Cerritelli, Chiara Gatti, Ornella Mignone, Giancarlo Santi.


In the title of his works of art, Vago replaced the year with the wording: Provvisoriamente 2100 o Provvisoriamente 31 a.C(Provisionally 2100 or Provisionally 31 a.C.).to stress the atemporality of what is eternal.In 2017, Vago also added to his works his initials and his date of birth (1931), to infer that all the paintings were somehow born with him and were part of his individuality since the beginning.


Accademia di San Luca endorsed Valentino Vago for Premio Presidente della Repubblica, which he received in the same year. Since 2014, he has been an academic of San Luca.

@bruno bani


In Milan, Vago painted San Giovanni in Laterano, his Paradiso(Paradise), represented the pinnacle of 70 years of quest of Beauty. This was his last and 21st church. Vago was finally free from all those bright shades, which had been predominant in his church works. 


In October, he opened two exhibitions: At Milione,his latest paintings, created between June and September, were shown; at Annunciata his largest works from the 60s and 70s were presented.

@giovanna del magro

@giovanna del magro

Vago died in his house in Milan on the 17th of January 2018.

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