Balbi was not brought up in a family or artists or designers: he is definitely a self-made man, who built his success all by himself. Ever since he was little, he was passionate about art: he was keen to explore all the different expressive channels. He had an acute aesthetic sense and innate good taste.
Balbi received an artistic training and then joined the Academy of Brera in the 70s: these were the years of the economic boom and of artistic liveliness. He exhibited his works in a local fair and was spotted by an entrepreneur who bought two of his paintings and offered him to work with him as designer of glasses. At the time, this was a fairly new field, and Leonardo was unsure whether to leave his studies to launch into an unexplored journey. But he was tempted by his sense of adventure and his father encouraged him to give it a try.
This is how Leonardo’s fashion journey originated: twenty golden years as an employer, then as a self-employed professional. At that time, the haute-couture world was changing and the focus centred on accessories. However, designer brands were not yet autonomous and relied on external providers. It was against this backdrop that Leonardo gained his experience, combining technical skills with his specialist knowledge of shapes, colours and materials. It was an ocean of stimulations, where our artist swam confidently. There was no separation between the artist’s creativity and his attention to the latest fashion trends: he was able to constantly adapt, therefore becoming the most sought after designer by brands from all over the world. These were the 80s and 90s, when there was a direct conversation with those in charge, and the ‘made in Italy’ was in the frontline, from a project to finished product. Leonardo decided to invest in his skills and opened two laboratories, hiring employees. Up until 2004, when he became ready for a new adventure. His success as a designer allowed him to focus on painting without worrying about money, and now he can simply concentrate on that, fulfilling his creative vain which has been waiting to be freed for a long time now.
The ideal stage, for someone like him who likes wide spaces, is a loft-style venue such as the one used by American artists: again he strikes lucky, because he can fulfil his dream in the old Mantuan meat factory, a large and airy space near the Baratta library. Whoever visits him finds him interacting with huge canvasses, resting on giant easels, or busy producing astonishing works of art that defy the third dimension. Balbi always pushes into the unknown, going from the small detail of glass designing to the exuberant canvasses that reflect precious metals.
And he welcomes everyone with a smile.
by Mara Pasetti