Born in 1948 in Sent, Switzerland, Vital lives and works between his hometown, Beijing and Rio de Janeiro. He grew up among the mountains and forests in the Engadin valley near the border of Switzerland, Austria and Italy, but has spent much of his time travelling and living in places including China, Niger, Italy, Indonesia and the USA. He studied visual arts at the Université Expérimentale de Vincennes, Paris from 1968–71 and moved to New York in 1974, where he began his artistic career. In 2003, Vital established a foundation in Ardez, a small historic village in the Engadin, with the aim of preserving the cultural assets of the valley and creating a local sculpture park. Over the course of his career, he has realised many buildings for contemplation all over the world, including the NotOna Tunnel on NotOna Island (2009) in Patagonia, Chile.
Vital’s work has been featured in numerous international exhibitions, including the 49th Venice Biennale (2001), curated by Harald Szeemann. Major solo exhibitions were held at Kunsthalle Bielefeld, Germany (2005); the Arts Club of Chicago (2006); UCCA Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing (2011); and the Museo d’arte Mendrisio, Switzerland (2014–15). In 2013, the large-scale installation 700 Snowballs was on view on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice. His first major UK exhibition and his largest museum project to date was held at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in 2016, followed by his first institutional project in Austria at the Museum der Moderne, Salzburg in 2020–21.