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Luigi Lurati

1936 - 1967
Luigi Lurati was a shooting star in painting. He only had the last four years of his short life (thirty-one years) to develop his abstract, colourful aesthetic and leave his mark on the Swiss art landscape.

Born of an immigrant family, he never pursued his artistic vocation through specialised studies. Aside from a few night classes at the School of Applied Arts in Basel, he was a self-taught painter. However, a body of work consisting of around sixty paintings—of which only thirty-six have survived—shows a pictorial technique and a formal language that are rigorous and playful at one and the same time.

Strongly influenced by the Kunsthalle Basel’s 1965 exhibition Signale, which assembled works by post-war artists of Colour Field painting and geometric abstraction, Luigi Lurati developed an art that paralleled evolutions in American art. His monumental pictorial compositions evoke Pop Art (through their intense and playful chromatic qualities), all-over painting (which used the whole surface of the canvas without hierarchy), and the aesthetics of hard-edge painting (through their impersonal construction and their clear, sharply delimited contours).

Though his career was short, his pictorial gesture was strong and decisive on the canvas, as he freely ordered contrasting colours that slid into geometric shapes, many of which were rounded. Lurati is also one of the few Swiss artists to work with a “shaped canvas” that moulds to the contour of the motif, in the style of Frank Stella.

After being noticed by Harald Szeemann, director of the Kunsthalle Bern, his work was included in the 1967 exhibition Formen der Farbe, alongside that of American stars like Robert Indiana and Ellsworth Kelly. His life ended tragically on the day of the exhibition opening, in a car crash on his way from Paris to Bern. Rediscovered in the 1980s, Lurati’s work has benefitted from considerable recognition by artists of the Neo-Geo movement in French-speaking Switzerland.