Luigi Mainolfi: post-conceptual fairytale draftsman and sculptor

From the destruction of the self to the creation of three-dimensional daydreams with poor materials that become precious.

Luigi Mainolfi is a post-conceptual sculptor of international renown. He gives concepts, poetic, surreal dreams and fairy tales a concrete existence when he turns them into gigantic three-dimensional objects, into suspended mirages, into amazing installations. Self-irony is a mark that hovers slightly on all his work.
His technical mastery has marked the history of ceramics, his skill transforms poor materials into precious ones.

Born in 1948 in Rotondi Valle Caudina, Campania, after studying painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Naples, in the seventies he moved to Turin, heart of the Italian artistic avant-garde.

Emblematic of the 70s his works that explore the body and the gesture as, for instance, The erection of Luigi Mainolfi VIII where, as documented by the photos of Bruno Del Monaco, we see the artist we see the artist inaugurating, in the square of St. Louis at Posillipo, a pillar that reproduces his features, like the ancient Greek herms representing Hermes to wayfarers protection. In the evening, accompanied by the band, he destroyed it with his own hands in front of the public gathered there for the event.

GAM video library – photographic series with some actions of Luigi Mainolfi of 1974: “The erection of Louis VIII Mainolfi”

… At sea, of 1977, he portrays Mainolfi that imprisons in a plaster casting a wax sculpture made in his image, and throws it in the sea. The water will dissolve the gypsum and the cancellation of his own image will turn into a new life with the re-emergence of the wax.

GAM video library – photographic series with some actions of Luigi Mainolfi of 1977: “… In the sea”

In both cases, the attempt is to reset knowledge, to ensure that the meaning of his works emerges from their destruction rather than by their presence in history.

He uses poor and natural materials (terracotta, plaster, wood, stone) and bronze castings.
In the 80s he presents large earthenware, with landscapes and fairytale subjects (Birth of Orco and Elephant 1980); Takes part in the Biennale in Sao Paulo (1981); exposes to the Caudine Forks to the fortieth Venice Biennale and at”Documenta 7 in Kassel”, (1982); participates in the Biennale de Paris (1982) with bases of heaven (1981-82) and at the Venice Biennale (1986) exposes the Triumph Bronze (elephanta, 1982). He participated in the XI and XII of Rome National Art Quadrennial.


“Untitled ( Exploded )”, 1978 – Chalk

Numerous and surprising the amount of a series of the monster that includes “elephants”, “apesse”, centaurs …

These the main stages of his career:

  • 1987 he won the “superior prixe” at the 5th Henry Moore G.P. in Japan, with the large bronze Giant City (1986).
  • 1990 has a personal room at the Venice Biennale, where he installed black sun (water, wax, wood, 1988-89).
  • 2002 Marble Dancers at the Padula Park in Carrara;
  • 2004 The sun Fair winds in Benevento.
  • 2005 Sun Doodle in Brunico (BZ).
  • 2006 Sun and City and in Rovereto.
  • 2007 exposes the Aluminum Sun at Ravensburg Museum (Germany) and in the same year he won the Michelangelo Award for sculpture, commissioned by the city of Carrara.
  • 2007-2008 realizes Silontes.
  • 2000-2008 exhibited in Paris (Galerie Di Meo) Spheres.
  • 2010 illustrates the Odyssey for Einaudi publisher and presents Harpies, spheres, dunes and other to the Plastic Arts Center, parallel event with the XIV.
  • On the occasion of the celebrations for the unification of Italy 150 years he realizes at Palazzo Madama in Turin in 2011, a large installation titled Turin overlooking the sea.
  • In 2012 he realizes For those flying to the Fattoria di Celle, Santomato di Pistoia and the Maeght Foundation in Saint Paul de Vence in France.


For those who fly was made at Fattoria di Celle, for the Gori collection in memory of Pina Gori. The bench, on the edge of the roof of the farm, is close to the residence of the family, and to the terrace from which Pina loved to watch the sunset. This work evokes her spirit and her presence.

“To those who fly” made ​​at Fattoria di Celle

Drawings by Luigi Mainolfi

Solsud (from hair in the wind ), 2014 – Iron

Balls city, 1994-2006-2014 – Bronze, wood and terracotta

Luigi Mainolfi and his sculpture “Apesse”

The bell, 1978-1979 – Gypsum and pigments

Innovative is its use of terracotta which is declined in multiple variations.

Columns of May ( harpies China), 2005 – Terracotta and fabric

It is the act of drawing to accompany all the production of Mainolfi, combined with the almost alchemical, artisanal and surgical wisdom in the use of materials. Many solid skills lightened by his poetry that makes dreams, anxieties, fables and legends three-dimensional.

Luigi Mainolfi a continuous search of art course with many practical skills lightened by her amazing poetry of dreams, anxieties, fables and legends underlying.

Luigi Mainolfi un percorso d’arte di continua ricerca con tante abilità concrete alleggerite dalla sua stupefacente poetica di sogni, inquietudini, favole e leggende sottese. ​

Luigi Mainolfi an art course of continuous search, with many practical skills lightened by his stupefying poetry of dreams, anxieties, and underlying fables and legends.