Emi Fontana was born in Milan, and she studied art history, classic and Venetian Renaissance painting in Rome. During the rise of counterculture, Fontana still as teenager, became involved in the creative concerns of the 1977 Italian Student Movement, one of the most challenging and provocative periods in Italian culture. She was also involved in the production of seminal underground publications, such as “Il Male” and “Frigidaire.” In the early 1980s, Fontana worked at the National Broadcasting Radio and in advertising. In the late 1980s, Fontana began working as an independent curator and private dealer; with Laura Ruggeri and Gianni Romano, she initiated the first archive of women artists working in Italy, which is currently part of the Archive of Via Farini in Milan. In 1991, with funding from the British Council, she curated An English View, the first Young British Artists’ show in Italy. Galleria Emi Fontana opened in 1992 in a non-traditional location and soon became internationally known for its program dedicated to emerging artists who are now some of the most influential and highly regarded artists working today. In the gallery’s first year, Fontana exhibited works exclusively by female artists, a challenging and unique decision in Italy at that time. The first show that Fontana organized in Los Angeles was a small survey of Italian conceptual artist Ketty La Rocca (Italian, 1938-1976) at the Italian Cultural Institute of Los Angeles in 2002.
Emi Fontana officially launched West of Rome in 2005 with Meant To Be Lived In (Today I’m Feeling Prismatic), a large-scale, site-specific installation by Olafur Eliasson in a postmodernist house in the Pasadena hills. The following project, Monica Bonvicini’s Not for you in 2006, occupied a 50,000-square-foot retail space in Pasadena. In 2007, Relay, a collaborative video installation by T. Kelly Mason and Diana Thater, took place in a former bridal shop in Los Angeles’s Westwood neighborhood. Also in Westwood in 2007, Liliana Moro presented a group of cast-bronze sculptures of attacking dogs in the landmark 1950s Angelino-style building, which is home to the Italian Cultural Institute. In 2008, West of Rome branched out with a non-profit segment. The initial project was the first part of the public art exhibition Women in the City, which took place in Los Angeles in 2008. Women in the City was awarded by Public Art in Review as best public art project of 2008. In July 2009, West of Rome Public Art gained its status as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Current projects include production and curatorship of a collaborative piece by Mike Kelley and Michael Smith, A Voyage of Growth and Discovery, that will be exhibited in Los Angeles in Spring 2010.