Agostino Bonalumi was born on 10 July 1935 in Vimercate, Milan. He studied technical design and mechanics. A self-taught painter, he began to show his work at a young age. In 1958, the Bonalumi Castellani and Manzoni group emerged with a show at the Galleria Pater in Milan, followed by other shows in Rome, Milan and Lausanne. In 1961 at the Kasper Gallery in Lausanne, he was one of the founding members of the Nuova Scuola Europea group. Arturo Schwarz acquired his works and in 1965 gave Bonalumi a solo show at his gallery in Milan, for which Gillo Dorfles wrote a catalogue essay. In 1966, he began a long period of collaboration with the Galleria del Naviglio in Milan, which became his exclusive agent, in 1973 publishing, for Edizioni del Naviglio, a large monograph edited by Gillo Dorfles. In 1966, he was invited to the Venice Biennale with a group of works and, in 1970, with a solo room. He then spent a period of study and work in Mediterranean Africa and the United States, where he debuted with a solo show at the Bonino Gallery in New York. In 1967, he was invited to the São Paulo Biennale and, in 1968, to the Youth Biennale in Paris.
In 1980 he staged a major retrospective at the Palazzo Te in Mantua, which covered his entire career. In 2001, he was awarded the Presidente della Repubblica Prize, which was celebrated with a solo show at the Accademia Nazionale di San Luca in Rome in 2002. In 2003, the Institut Mathildenhöhe in Darmstadt mounted the solo show Agostino Bonalumi: malerei in der dritten dimension. He produced environmental-painting works including: in 1967, Blu abitabile for the exhibition Lo spazio dell’immagine in Foligno; in 1968, Grande Nero, for a solo show at the Museum am Ostwall in Dortmund; in 1979, for the exhibition Pittura Ambiente at the Palazzo Reale in Milan, the installation Dal giallo al bianco e dal bianco al giallo, in which the environment, seen as human activity, was analysed as primary, and therefore psychological activity, as also in Ambiente Bianco. Spazio trattenuto e spazio invaso, produced in 2002 for the Guggenheim Foundation in Venice.
He worked in the area of stage design, in 1970 creating, for the Teatro Romano in Verona, sets and costumes for the ballet Partita, with music by Goffredo Petrassi and choreography by Sussanna Egri and, in 1972, for the Teatro dell’Opera in Rome, creating sets and costumes for Rot, with music by Domenico Guaccero, and choreography by Amedo Amodio. Despite suffering from a long-term illness, Bonalumi continued to work assiduously, developing his work up to the last years of his life.
He also completed a cycle of bronze sculptures based on designs dating to the end of the 1960s. Brussels, Moscow, New York and Singapore are a few of the world capitals which have hosted solo shows of his work during his final period of activity. In summer 2013, he collaborated on the realisation of a major exhibition in London, the opening of which he unfortunately did not live to see. Agostino Bonalumi died in Monza on 18 September 2013.