Born in Chicago, Matelli received his BFA from the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design in 1993 and his MFA from the Cranbrook Academy of Art in 1995. The artist lives and works in New York City. He is represented by the Marlborough Gallery and in 2015 had a two venue solo exhibition in their Chelsea and Broome Street, New York City spaces respectively. Previously he was represented by the Leo Koenig gallery and then as it became a partnership in turn the Koenig & Clinton gallery. He had solo exhibitions at the venture in both 2007 and 2008
Most of the sculptor's notoriety has arisen from his work Sleepwalker and the placement of the work therein. First publicly installed outside Wellesley College - an all women's school - the sculpture came under attack both in words and deed. Some students reaction to the work which was first created for display at the institute of higher learning in time with his solo exhibition at Wellesley's Davis Museum, titled "New Gravity" was similar to that of some people's to Anthony Gormley's figure placed near a ledge on the Empire State Building being called in to emergency services as a jumper; they thought it was a stumbling invasive drunk or otherwise a perpetrator. A petition was then started to demand removal of the work and, as reported by the New York Times, garnered over five hundred signatures, with the organizers stating that it had become “a source of apprehension, fear, and triggering thoughts regarding sexual assault for some members of our campus community.” Matelli responded stating.."If you have bad feelings toward this and it’s triggering you, you need to seek sympathy, you need to seek help....”. In 2014 the sculpture was vandalized by spraying yellow paint on it. In the end the sculpture stayed for the course of the exhibition and the boisterous debate continued online, ending in over one thousand signatures asking for the work's removal on change.org. During the spring and summer of 2016 the sculpture is being exhibited along New York City's Highline Park with continued debate and the great interest of onlookers who group around it sometimes in crowds.
- "Sleepwalker - Wellesley College". www.wellesley.edu.
- "Marlborough Contemporary". marlboroughchelsea.com.
- Fuse, Arte (6 June 2015). "Art Exhibits, Art Magazine, Contemporary Art, Art Blogs, Art Artists".
- Schwendener, Martha (9 February 2007). "Art in Review; Tony Matelli" – via NYTimes.com.
- "Controversial Statue Comes to the High Line - artnet News". 7 January 2016.
- Fasick, Kevin (15 April 2010). "Art is on ledge of insanity".
- "Tony Matelli Doesn't Believe His 'Sleepwalker' Statue Is Terrorizing Wellesley College". Vice.
- Bidgood, Jess (6 February 2014). "At Wellesley, Debate Over a Statue in Briefs" – via NYTimes.com.
- "Wellesley 'Sleepwalker' Statue Now On Display In New York City".
- "Wellesley College Students Want to Remove Tony Matelli's 'Disturbing' Sleepwalker Sculpture". 5 February 2014.
- "New Provocative High Line Statue Sparks Conversation On Artistic Expression".
- "Controversial sleepwalker sculpture wakes up the High Line".