Paolo Cotani was born in 1940 in Rome, where he spent his formative years and came into contact with the Roman art milieu of the early 1960s. In 1964 he moved to London, where he stayed until 1970. Through his friendship with Joseph Rykwert, he obtained a teaching post at the Colchester School of Art.
His first exhibition was held at Ferro di Cavallo in Rome in 1968. He returned to Italy in the early 1970s. The artist’s first Bende elastiche were exhibited at the IX Paris Biennale in 1975. In 1976, the exhibition La gestione del colore, A Comparison between Cotani and Richter, was held at Arco d’Alibert in Rome. In 1977 he was invited to Documenta 6 in Kassel, and to the show Sixteen Italian Artists in Rotterdam. In 1979, his first solo exhibition in a museum was held at Palazzo dei Diamanti in Ferrara.