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Fontana studied art history at the University La Sapienza in Rome, with a focus on the Venetian Renaissance. Her coming of age happened in the late seventies when Italy was living a unique season of creativity and was a laboratory of new ideas and talents. She became part of circles of artists, musicians and writers. She was especially close to the group of writers and cartoonists involved with the publication of several independent magazines, including Il Male, Cannibale, and Frigidaire. As well as "off theater" avantgard experiences like the circle of the Beat 72 . In these years the young Emi Fontana met the well known cultural attaché for the city of Rome, Renato Nicolini. His ideas of bringing culture in to the streets trespassing boundaries of high and low that culminated with the Estate Romana (Roman Summer), became really influential for her later activity as cultural producer.
In the late 1980s, after few years spent with a daily job in advertising companies, Fontana became actively involved in contemporary art as an independent curator for galleries and public institutions. With Laura Ruggeri and Gianni Romano she initiated the first archive of women artists working in Italy, which is now housed at DOCVA (Documentation Centre for Visual Arts) in Milan. In 1991 she organized "An English View" at the British Academy in Rome, the first show in Italy of YBA (Young British Art).
Emi Fontana Gallery, Milan
In 1992, Fontana opened the Emi Fontana Gallery in Milan, where she worked with artists such as Adrian Piper, Alessandra Spranzi, Arpiani & Pagliarini, Cosima von Bonin, Diana Thater, Gillian Wearing, John Waters, Ketty La Rocca, Liam Gillick, Liliana Moro, Lovett & Codagnone, Luca Buvoli, Luca Vitone, Mark Dion, Michael Smith, Mike Kelley, Monica Bonvicini, Olafur Eliasson, Renée Green, Rirkrit Tiravanija and Sam Durant. The gallery officially closed in 2009.
Curatorial activities and productions
In 2002 Fontana organized a small exhibition for conceptual artist Ketty La Rocca (Italian, 1938-1976) at the Italian Cultural Institute of Los Angeles. In 2005 Fontana initiated a series of nomadic art projects under the name "West of Rome". The organization focused on finding alternative strategies of exhibition for contemporary art. The first project was Olafur Eliasson's "Meant to be lived in (Today I’m feeling prismatic)", at the Jamie Residence, Pasadena, CA. In 2006 Fontana brought the work of Italian artist Monica Bonvicini to a vacant, store front in Pasadena for "Not For You". 2007 Fontana curated "relay", which was a collaborative work of T. Kelly Mason and Diana Thater, held in a former bridal salon in Westwood, CA. Also in Westwood in 2007, Fontana presented works of Liliana Moro featuring a group of cast-bronze sculptures of attacking dogs, and framed embroidered depictions of domestic cats at the Italian Cultural Institute. By 2008 Fontana took steps towards setting up a non-profit art initiative with support of the Pasadena Arts Council until eventually gaining status as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and becoming "West of Rome Public Art". In 2008 Fontana curated the group show “Women in the City”, where works by Cindy Sherman, Barbara Kruger, Jenny Holzer and Louise Lawler were disseminated in more than 300 locations across greater Los Angeles. as best public art project of the year by American's for the arts. In 2009 she curated and produced with Mike Kelley, and Michael Smith "A Voyage of Growth and Discovery” a multichannel video and sculptural installation by Kelley and Smith. 2010 a later incarnation of "Women in the City" would include artists Marnie Weber and Jennifer Bolande,) In 2011, Fontana organised “Trespass Parade” as part of Getty's "Pacific Standard Time" with Rirkrit Tiravanija and Arto Lindsay, a project that involved more than 200 artists and over 2000 participants, who took over the streets of downtown Los Angeles in street theatre and performance.
More recently, Fontana curated a series of new performances for the J. Paul Getty's "Pacific Standard Time Performance Festival" and West of Rome, with Vaginal Davis and Andrea Fraser; Andrea Fraser’s "Men on the Line," has been since then presented in prominent art institutions, from MoMA to the Ludwig Museum in Cologne, as well as becoming the object of major academic discussions on the issue of performance, feminism and so called post-feminism. Also the work of artist Suzanne Lacy "Three Weeks in January" curated by Emi Fontana in collaboration with John Tain as part of the J. Paul Getty's "Pacific Standard Time Performance Festival
In May 2013 Emi Fontana and Andrea Lissoni curated the exhibition, Mike Kelley, “Eternity is a Long Time”. for the Hangar Bicocca and Pirelli Foundation in Milan. Also in the summer of 2013 Fontana curated the show of another Los Angeles based artist. Stanya Kahn's, "Downer (but your ass looks huge from down here)" at Pigna Project Space in Rome, Italy from May 25 -June 25, 2013,
- Huffington Post article by Max Padilla, "Emi Fontana: Why an Italian Is Producing Great Public art in L.A."
- Interview With West of Rome Public Art's Emi Fontana
- Global Feminisms: New Directions in Contemporary Art Hardcover by Maura Reilly
- The Beat and the Buzz: Inside the L.A. Art World By Richard Hertz
- Article about the closing of Galleria Emi Fontana in 2009 from Art Agenda originally from Kaleidoscope Magazine 2009
- The CV of Artist Adrian Piper list for projects with curator Emi Fontana.- (2004) Adrian Piper, Over the Edge, Emi Fontana Gallery, Milan, Italy - (2003) Group Show, Imperfect Marriages, Emi Fontana Gallery, Milan, Italy - (1997) Solo Show Adrian Piper, Galleria Emi Fontana, Milan, Italy - (1995) Group show, It’s Not a Picture, Galleria Emi Fontana, Milan, Italy
- Book LA DONNA BARBUTA by artist Spranzi, Alessandra published by Galleria Emi Fontana. Hardcover – January 1, 2000, ASIN:B004BXDLWQ
- The CV of artist Diana Thater list five projects with curator Emi Fontana. - (2007) Group show, Elsewhere?, Galleria Emi Fontana, Milan. (2007) Group show, Xmas Hysteria, Galleria Emi Fontana, Milan. (2007) relay, a collaboration with Diana Thater and T. Kelly Mason, West of Rome, 1033 Westwood Boulevard, Los Angeles. (2002) Diana Thater, Bastard Pink, Galleria Emi Fontana, Milan. (2000) Diana Thater, The Caucus Race, Galleria Emi Fontana, Milan
- Art Agenda - WEST OF ROME announces: relay, BY T. KELLY MASON AND DIANA THATER curated by Emi Fontana
- Gillian Wearing projects at Emi Fontana, Milan, Italy (1995, 1997, and 2007) as listed on CV of the artist.
- The CV of artist Liam Gillick has four references to shows curated by Emi Fontana. -(1995) Ibuka!, Galerie Emi Fontana, Milan. (1997) Reclutamento!, Emi Fontana, Milan. (2003) Group show, Imperfect Marriages, Galerie Emi Fontana, Milan. (2007) Xmas Hysteria, Galerie Emi Fontana, Milan.
- Book, Liliana Moro by Sergio Risaliti, Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst Antwerpen MUHKA, MUseum van Hedendaagse Kunst Antwerpen, 1996 - Art - 81 pages. Emi Fontana is on pages 76 and 80
- The CV of artists Lovett & Codagnone shows thirteen mentions of projects with curator Emi Fontana - (2010) I migliori anni della, Galleria Emi Fontana, Milan.(2009) Tre Punti..., Galleria Emi Fontana, Milan. (2007) Xmas Hysteria, Galleria Emi Fontana, Milan. (2007) Elsewhere?, Galleria Emi Fontana, Milano. (2006) Passers-by: Photography from 1974 to 2004,Galleria Emi Fontana, Milano.- (2006) Party with Us, Galleria Emi Fontana, Milano. (2003) Imperfect Marriages, Galleria Emi Fontana, Milano. (2002) Group Show, Galleria Emi Fontana, Milano. (2001) <<PLAY>>, Galleria Emi Fontana, Milano. (1998) Group Show, Galleria Emi Fontana, Milano. (1998) Il Motore della Moda, Stazione Leopolda, Firenze, curated by Emi Fontana. (1997) Sighting, Galleria Emi Fontana, Milano.
- The CV of artist Luca Buvoli contains three references to projects with curator Emi Fontana - (1999) Basel Art Fair, (Galleria Emi Fontana), Basel, Switzerland. (1997) A Night Like Any Other, Galleria Emi Fontana, Milan, Italy. (1997) Galleria Emi Fontana, Milan, Italy.
- The CV of artist Mike Kelley contains four references to projects curated by Emi Fontana. Archived 2013-05-16 at the Wayback Machine (2011, 2010, 2009) A Voyage of Growth and Discovery,” collaboration with Michael Smith. Sculpture Center, Long Island, New York, West of Rome,Los Angeles, California and BALTIC, UK. (2007) XMAS HYSTERIA,” Galleria Emi Fontana, Milan, Italy. (2003) Mike Kelley: Memory Ware, Wood Grain, Carpet, Galleria Emi Fontana, Milan, Italy. (2000) Mike Kelley, Galleria Emi Fontana, Milan, Italy.
- The CV of artist Olafur Eilasson contains five references to projects with curator Emi Fontana. Archived 2012-10-11 at the Wayback Machine (2005) Meant to be lived in (Today I’m feeling prismatic), Emi Fontana West of Rome, Jamie Residence, Pasadena, CA. (2003) Matrimoni imperfetti, Galleria Emi Fontana, Milan, Italy. (2004) Delight and other luminous movements, Galleria Emi Fontana, Milan, Italy. (1999) Riflessi di una certa importanza, Galleria Emi Fontana, Milan, Italy. (1996) Your foresight endured, Galleria Emi Fontana, Milan, Italy.
- Book, Olafur Eliasson: the weather project Emi Fontana is mentioned on Page 140. ISBN 9781854374899
- Rirkrit Tiravanija Untitled 2000 (oVer Station No.2), Galleria Emi Fontana, Milan, Italy (solo) from artist bio on artnet.com.
- The CV of artist Sam Durant lists three projects by curator Emi Fontana - (2006) Sam Durant, Scenes from the Pilgrim Story: Goodbye Merrymount, Galleria Emi Fontana, Milan, Italy - (2004) Sam Durant, We Are All Outlaws in the Eyes of Amerika, Galleria Emi Fontana, Milan, Italy - (2001) Sam Durant, Southern Tree, Tree of Knowledge, Dead Tree (part one), Galleria Emi Fontana, Milan, Italy
- Lockhart, Sharon (November 2010). "1000 Words Jennifer Bolande". Artforum International – via Questia Online Library (subscription required). Retrieved 14 March 2014.
- Official website for West of Rome Public Art
- X-Tra Magazine 2005 - Translation Comes Home by Jennifer Wulffson Goodell. Olafur Eliasson, Meant to Be Lived In (Today I’m Feeling Prismatic) West of Rome, Galleria Emi Fontana, at Jamie Residence, Pasadena, California, April 21-May 31, 2005
- Article in Artnet magazine on the Olafur Eliasson project at the Jamie Residence in Pasadena, CA
- Curated by Emi Fontana and organized by West of Rome along with the Italian Cultural Institute.
- A non-profit is allowed to assist a company seeking non-profit status while they are undergoing the process of obtaining 501(c)(3). Pasadena Arts Council offers services of "Fiscal Partnership" to other in this process.
- Official site for the Women in the City project http://www.womeninthecity.org/
- Awarded announcements for the local city of LA winners Archived 2015-06-06 at the Wayback Machine.
- Americans For the Arts
- Public Art Network Year in Review 2009
- "Making the Scene: Call Them What You Will, but Their Best Work May Be How They Bring Other Artists Together". Los Angeles Magazine – via HighBeam Research (subscription required). 1 April 2013. Archived from the original on 11 June 2014. Retrieved 14 March 2014.
- - Huffington Post article Hey Kids, It's the Trespass Parade! By Wyatt Closs
- Downloadable program for J. Paul Getty's Pacific Standard Time Festival featuring events curated by Emi Fontana through West of Rome Archived 2013-12-07 at the Wayback Machine
- Vaginal Davis performance as part of the J. Paul Getty's Pacific Standard Time Festival Jan 23, 2012 by Emi Fontana's West of Rome Archived 2014-02-22 at the Wayback Machine
- J. Paul Getty's Pacific Standard Time Festival Jan 23, 2012 by Emi Fontana's West of Rome Archived 2014-02-22 at the Wayback Machine
- Museum of Modern Art MOMA link to Fraser performance curated by Emi Fontana.
- Article in ARTFIX daily on the Suzanne Lacey performance piece, citing Fontana as co-curator.
- Description of the exhibition Mike Kelley - Eternity is a Long Time at Hangar Bicocca Archived 2014-02-09 at the Wayback Machine.
- The CV or artist Stanya Kahn shows the 2013 exhibition curated by Emi Fontana.
- Article by Emi Fontana for Flash Art International. Archived 2014-02-22 at the Wayback Machine
- MOUSSE - Archive - Issue #40 - Mike Kelley - Eternity is a Long Time by Emi Fontana MOUSSE - Archive - Issue #21 - Mike Kelley - SKELETONS IN THE CLOSET by Emi Fontana Archived 2014-02-08 at the Wayback Machine
- Hardcover: 304 pages Publisher: Merrell Publishers (March 1, 2007), ISBN 978-1858943909. Images included courtesy of Galleria Emi Fontana on pages 60 and 147.
- ISBN 0964016567, Publisher: Hol Art Books (September 1, 2011). Interview of Emi Fontana pages 187 through 198.