Mimmo Paladino was born Domenico Paladino in Paduli, Campania, southern Italy. He attended the Liceo Artistico of Benevento (Benevento Art High School) from 1964 to 1968, when minimalism and conceptualism dominated the international art scene. He played a leading part in the international revival of painting towards the end of the 1970s. His first work, in line with the prevailing conceptual climate at the time, showed an interest in photography, but in 1977 he had already moved on to the creation of two major tempera murals, one at the Toselli gallery in Milan and one at the Lucio Amelio gallery in Naples.
In 1980, he exhibited his work at the Venice Biennale, in the "Aperto 80" exhibition. Other Italian artists present included Sandro Chia, Francesco Clemente, Enzo Cucchi and Nicola de Maria: the leaders of the Transavantgardemovement. However, it was largely thanks to a picture exhibition held in a range of Central European museums, from the Kunsthalle in Basel, to the Museum Folkwang in Essen and the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, that Paladino finally consolidated his international fame. Meanwhile, two personal exhibitions were held simultaneously in New York that year, by Annina Nosei and Marian Goodman, extending his fame to the United States.
In 1981, the Kunstmuseum in Basel organised a major personal exhibition of paintings, curated by Dieter Koepplin. This was then also put on at the Kestner-Gesellschaft in Hanover, the Mannheimer Kunstverein in Mannheim and theGroninger Museum in Groningen. The Galleria d'Arte Moderna in Bologna also dedicated a personal exhibition to him that year.