Luigi Ontani (Montovolo, 1943) after enrolling in the Academy of Fine Arts in Bologna, is called to arms and moves to Turin: here he had his first meeting with art, when, in 1963, he visits the exhibitions set up at the Galleria Notizie. Two years later, in 1965, he made his debut with Plenoastic Objects, scagliola casts of colored domestic objects. At the end of the Sixties, however, Ontani matured his own identifying style: he resorted to video or photography to impersonate subjects belonging to history, mythology or literature.
Thus the first tableaux vivants were born, in which the artist becomes the protagonist, identifying himself, for example, in the figures of Bacco (Bacchino, 1970) or San Sebastiano (San Sebastiano nel bosco di Calvenzano, d'apres Guido Reni, 1970). What distinguishes, however, these elaborations are an absolute lightness and playfulness, very distant, therefore, from the aggressive and dramatic nature that instead characterizes the coeval Body Art: the narcissistic element, predominant in all its personifications, is in fact subordinated to the intent to always return to an idea of living and present art.
In 1970 his first personal exhibition was organized at Galleria San Fedele in Milan, and in the same year he moved to Rome, where he devoted himself to the production of paintings with subjects drawn from mythology and began to produce works in papier-mâché, glass and wood. The masks with an exotic flavor date back to this period, which were affected by the trips that Ontani undertook in the Far East during the Bolognese years. The desire to discover new places re-emerges again during these years, when he decides to travel to India and Indonesia to find out about the traditional manufacturing processes of local materials. In addition to these materials that will lead him, for example, to make the windows of the Municipality of Vergato (1998), Ontani very often also uses ceramic and mosaic with which in 2002 he will create a large mosaic panel in the Materdei Station of the Naples Metro. In a continuous technical evolution, Ontani remains always faithful to the themes that have characterized his path or revisiting subjects drawn from myth, popular tradition and fantastic worlds.
During his career, Ontani has participated in several editions of the Biennale di Venezia (1978, 1986 and 1995) and has organized numerous solo shows in the major world exhibition locations, such as the Sonnabend Gallery in New York, the Gallery of Modern Art in Bologna, the Vienna Kunsthalle and the Frankfurt Frankfurter Kunstverein. In recent years, two retrospectives have been dedicated to him by the PS 1 Contemporary Art Center / MoMA in New York (2001) and by the SMAK of Gent (2003-2004).
Luigi Ontani's works are present in important museum institutions such as the MADRE Museum in Naples, the MAMbo in Bologna, the MAXXI in Rome, the Civic Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art in Turin, the Parkview Museum in Singapore and the International Museum of Ceramics (MIC) of Faenza.
In 2008 a work by Luigi Ontani was exhibited in the group exhibition The essence of the earth in art at Galleria d'Arte Maggiore g.a.m. in Bologna and in 2020 his artworks are included into the exhibition Aprés Morandi: Bertozzi e Casoni, Luigi Ontani, Sissi, held during Artefiera in Bologna.