April 12, 2024

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Australian restaurant where The Beatles and Al Pacino dined to auction off 200 pieces of art as it closes down



a group of people sitting at a table in a restaurant: Italian restaurant Lucio’s in Sydney will auction off the art collection adorning its walls which is almost as famous as the food. Photo: Getty Images


Italian restaurant Lucio’s in Sydney will auction off the art collection adorning its walls which is almost as famous as the food. Photo: Getty Images

Lucio’s, the legendary Italian restaurant in Sydney that is putting up the shutters for good, is going to be holding a closing-down sale with a difference at the end of February.

The 37-year-old establishment where The Beatles, Al Pacino and Mikhail Gorbachev have all dined will auction off the 200 artworks that have been hanging on its Tuscan yellow walls on February 28.

The collection is a testimony to the close friendships between proprietor Lucio Galletto and many of Australia’s best-known modern and contemporary artists, and it has made Lucio’s a cultural destination as much as a place for highly rated northern Italian cuisine.

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Auctioneer Bonhams has yet to release the catalogue of the sale but it says the collection features works by John Olsen, Elisabeth Cummings, Luke Sciberras, Garry Shead, Ann Thomson, Hilarie Mais, John Coburn, Tim Storrier and Sidney Nolan.



a group of people sitting at a table: Lucio Galletto in front of a set of 35 plates that 35 Australian artists have painted for his restaurant. Photo: Courtesy of Lucio's


© Provided by South China Morning Post
Lucio Galletto in front of a set of 35 plates that 35 Australian artists have painted for his restaurant. Photo: Courtesy of Lucio’s

It all began in 1984, a year after Galletto and his wife, Sally, moved their young business to the leafy Sydney suburb of Paddington. Nolan – whose landscapes in the lobby of Hong Kong’s Exchange Square in Central will be familiar to many in the city – on a visit to the restaurant drew a sketch of famous Australian bushranger Ned Kelly in a table order notepad, and Galletto was so pleased with it he displayed it in the restaurant in a gold-leaf-covered frame.

Since then, the restaurant has been filled to the brim with paintings, drawings and sculptures that the Gallettos bought or were given – and a unique set of painted plates. In 1998, Galletto invited 15 Australian artists to paint on ceramic plates to celebrate the restaurant’s 15th anniversary. With each passing year, a new plate was added.



a person sitting at a table in a room: Art at Lucio's. Photo: Courtesy of Lucio's


© Provided by South China Morning Post
Art at Lucio’s. Photo: Courtesy of Lucio’s



John Olsen holding a sign posing for the camera: Artist John Olsen (left) and Galletto in 2011, with Galletto holding Olsen's design for his dessert menu. Photo: Courtesy of Lucio's


© Provided by South China Morning Post
Artist John Olsen (left) and Galletto in 2011, with Galletto holding Olsen’s design for his dessert menu. Photo: Courtesy of Lucio’s

“Food and art for me is like the air that I breathe,” Galletto once wrote. “I grew up in the family restaurant in Italy where we had an art gallery, so it has always been in my blood. It is very important for me personally and also, I think for our customers as well.”

This may not be the end of the restaurant, however. The family told local media that they sold the building before the Covid-19 pandemic and are on the lookout for a new address to restart Lucio’s. Perhaps a new crop of Australian artists will see their works grace those walls.

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This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (www.scmp.com), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia.

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