About Valentino Monticello
Born in 1933 in Piovene Rocchette, near Vicenza, Italy, Valentino Monticello moved with his family to the town of Thiene at the age of five. There he was raised in a world of food, wine, art and music.
His passion for opera had an early start. At the age of six, the artist played Troble in a local production of Madam Butterfly. He was soon attending opera recitals at the open-air theatre in Verona, making the 90km journey by bicycle.
His gifts for line and composition were evident from an early age. At 11, the artist was awarded first prize in a portrait competition organised by Professor Guerra from Trasche Conca. By 14, he was creating posters and labels for Distilleri S. Giorgio of Bassano del Grappa.
Monticello’s family ran a hotel and by the time he moved to London in his twenties, he knew enough about wine to find work as a sommelier at Club 21. There, he was exposed to the world’s finest wines, becoming expert in Bordeaux and Burgundy and cultivating a lifelong passion for Chateau d’Yquem. By the mid 1980s Monticello’s expertise saw him rise to Head Sommelier at the legendary Harry’s Bar.
Immersed in the world of wine, Monticello never stopped making art. He would leave the restaurant and retreat to the peace of his studio, often working through the night. He worked in oils (completing a large scale rendition of “Dante’s Inferno”) and designed the scenery for two musicals before starting to paint symphonies, and arias in opera which related to wine. He began to incorporate the tools of his trade – wine labels – in his art.
In 1986, a commission to create a mural prompted Monticello to experiment with collages comprised of wine labels. Cutting out and arranging the figures in incredible detail, his signature method was established.
Said Monticello: “All of my pictures are composed of shapes carefully cut from wine labels: the people, the flowers, even the lines, are carefully cut from different wine labels. There is no drawing or painting involved at all.”
Monticello’s work began to win the support of prominent artists including Gueri da Santomio, Piero Annigonmi, Emma Sergeant and John Ward.
Two of his wine label collages were exhibited in the Royal Academy of Art’s summer exhibition, many others were shown annually at Christie’s and five were commissioned by Every’s of Bristol.
In 1990 Monticello had his maiden exhibition at the Ergon Gallery, an event opened by former Arts minister David Mellor.
In 2002, the National Gallery held an exhibition of Monticello’s work to mark the launch of his epic book project, “Opera and Wine”, a work 20 years in the making. On display were 31 of the 70 original collages printed in the book, for which Luciano Citeroni produced the text.
In 2009, a conference was held at the Uffizzi Gallery, Florence about Monticello’s work.
In May 2011, the artist was awarded a prize for Excellence at the Lyric Theatre.
The artist continues to combine his encyclopaedic knowledge of wine and opera with his art; his work marries rich cultural allusion with inimitable technique.
The work of Valentino Monticello is held in prestigious private collections around the world.