Leonardo Balbi was born in 1957 in Valeggio sul Mincio, a picturesque little village near Verona, in northern Italy. After attending the School of Arts in Mantua, he enters the painting section of Accademia di Brera in Milan.
The change from a small town to a world-renowned business, fashion and art centre is a stimulating and enriching experience. The discovery of different artistic realities, important events and exhibitions of famous artists represents a unique opportunity of personal growth. In that same period, an unexpected proposal gives Balbi the chance to work as a designer for an important glasses manufacturer.
He is still very young in 1975 when he begins, without much conviction, his career in glasses and fashion accessories design, and in 1984 he decides to work on his own. Thanks to his talent and experience, and supported by a very skilful staff, he opens a successful design studio, specialized in the design of prestigious glasses collections for famous Italian and foreign stylists.
Balbi’s artistic activity can’t be separated from his designer career, although the application fields may seem so different. Perhaps, the purpose is the only real difference. The exuberant fantasy, the extraordinary interpretation ability, the marked taste for decorative characters are all elements that can be found both in the artist and in the designer. Indeed, the passion for painting has never ceased, so the artistic creation has always gone along with the design activity.
Today, though still working as a designer, Balbi is mainly an artist producing large-size abstract paintings on canvas.
Though its position at the end of the exhibition path separates it from the rest of the rooms, the atelier represents its natural continuation, as if there was no interruption between the creation and the exhibition.
Entering the atelier means getting closer to the artist’s heart, sharing his emotions, catching vibrations that normally can’t be felt when visiting the gallery. It is a place for work and inspiration, with paintings still on the easel, paint mixtures everywhere, like palettes always ready to be used , and the floor soaked with colour drippings.
"To all those who belive in art as a form of absolute and unconditional freedom"
Sited in via Allende, near Palazzo Te, in Mantua, the atelier gallery of Leonardo Balbi is an exhibit space with annexed studio-laboratory, a workshop inside the gallery itself.
The artist has passionately believed in this project, achieved by restoring a 19th century factory. Though it may now seem to have been an easy job, its definition and completion have taken quite long, but, as everybody knows, dreams need time to come true. This atelier gallery translates the artist’s will to create a space capable of containing his large size works.
Entering the gallery, visitors are struck by the fascination of this place, a huge open space with vault ceiling and splendid original arches. If the whole structure has maintained its historical integrity, it also shows a special attention for a space at the forefront of contemporary art.
Most of the pictures exposed in the gallery belong to the artist’s latest period, from the abstract macro-paintings, including the gold leaf series, to the unusual painted squares.
The selection of works on exhibit summarizes a thirty year long artistic career and shows the outcome of a life committed to art.
Common elements of the permanent exhibit are the recurring square shape, the passion for abstract art and the tactile use of paint.