Lucio Fontana was born in Rosario de Santa Fé, Argentina, on 19 February 1899 to a Milanese father and Argentine mother. After living in Milan from 1905 to 1921, he returned to Argentina, where he worked as a sculptor in his father's studio for several years. In 1926, he participated in the first exhibition of Nexus, a group of young Argentine artists active in Rosario. Returning to Milan in 1928, he attended the Brera Academy of Fine Arts for two years and in 1930 held his first solo exhibition at the Il Milione gallery.
In 1935 he settled in Paris, where he joined the Abstraction-Création group and began working with ceramics in Albisola, Liguria, and then in Sèvres, France. In 1939 he joined the Milanese group of expressionist artists Corrente and the following year he moved to Buenos Aires, where with a group of his students he founded the Academia de Altamira in 1946 and published the Manifiesto Blanco. Returning to Milan in 1947, Fontana signed the First Manifesto of Spatialism with a group of writers and philosophers. He then returned to work on ceramics in Albisola to explore new ideas with Spatial Concepts (1949-60)
1949 marked a turning point in his career: he created the Buchi, the first series of paintings in which he punched holes in canvases, and the first 'spatial environment', a set of shapeless sculptures, fluorescent paintings and black lights to be observed in a dark room. These works soon led him to use neon tubes in ceiling works. In the early 1950s he participated in the exhibitions of the Informal movement, and throughout the decade experimented with various effects, such as cuts and perforations, in both painting and sculpture. Fontana visited New York in 1961, on the occasion of one of his exhibitions at the Martha Jackson Gallery. In 1966 he collaborated with La Scala theatre in Milan, designing sets and costumes. In the last years of his career, he became increasingly interested in the staging of his works in the many exhibitions dedicated to him all over the world, as well as in the idea of purity achieved in his last white canvases. This is evident in the 1966 Venice Biennale, where he designed an environment, and at Documenta in Kassel in 1968. Fontana died in Comabbio, Varese, on 7 September 1968.