Franco Angeli Artworks 1958–1988 is a retrospective exhibition of Franco Angeli (1935-1988), a leading exponent of an entire generation of Roman artists that rose in the 1960s.

This exhibition is in WeGil, the wonderful new exhibition space in Rome, and lets us get to know Franco Angeli’s work in depth.

Angeli is part of the group known as the School of Piazza di Popolo which also included Tano Festa and Mario Schifano

About 70 of his works are on exhibit from his early years in Informalism to his death in the late 1980s.

Early years

At the start of his artistic career, Franco Angeli encountered the work of Alberto Burri (Magazine link) in the Roman atelier of the artist Edgardo Mannucci. This encounter made a strong impression on him.

He also drew on his early experience as an upholsterer, which taught him to appreciate the use of gauze and frameworks that give shape to all of the contours, cutouts, and stencils he used in his works.

Just as they say, learn an art, you never know when you’ll need it.

Angeli’s first works are monochromes in a single color made with humble materials like gauze and nylon socks (legend has it that they were the socks of his ex-girlfriends. Who knows if it’s true?)

My first paintings speak to my everyday contact with the street. I saw the ruins, tombstones, and ancient and modern symbols like the eagle, the swastika, the hammer and sickle, obelisks, statues, and Roman wolves, which released enough energy to take on the adventure of painting.” (Franco Angeli)

Franco Angeli tecnica mista su tela Anonimo euroasiatico

Anonimo euroasiatico

Beauty emerged from a wound

One piece that particularly affected me has a poignant title: “Da una ferita scaturì la bellezza” [“Beauty emerged from a wound.”]

As we read in De Marco’s article “Piazza del Popolo 1950–1960” in La Tartaruga from 1959, the work was inspired by a trauma on the night of July 19, 1943 during the bombing of the San Lorenzo district.

Angeli wrote about it: “The material I find is a piece of this enormous wound that has tore Europe; my early paintings were like that, a wound from which to take off the pieces of bandages… where the blood has dried but is no more than a red stain. Everything was meant to look torn, broken

From when Angeli was still a child, he had indelible memories of the blood and people buried under the rubble.

In this work, a gauze covers a red surface as if it were a bandage. It is the artist’s intense attempt to assuage the pain along with the memory of those terrible events.

The symbol of power

The 1960s were key for Franco Angeli’s rise as an artist.

In his work, he pays close attention to the symbols of power so as not to forget.

The gauze he applies on these symbols is the memory that resurfaces to never forget wars, genocides, and other atrocities.

Franco Angeli O.A.S. tecnica mista
O.A.S Tutti cattivi i tedeschi

OAS (Tutti Cattivi i Tedeschi) painting by Franco Angeli

The work is huge and uniquely bold. It depicts an enormous swastika covered by a piece of gauze.

As we come close to it, we no longer see the swastika but only Chinese type ideograms, and the great archetype of evil materializes only as we move away.

Then we see the harrowing eternal symbol of destruction and power.

Painting by Franco Angeli

In the late 1960s, Franco Angeli shifted towards figurative painting, focusing on landscapes and drawing.

However, symbols did not completely disappear from his work, as small swastikas as well as hammers and sickles returned now and again.

Souvenir Spray su cartoncino Franco Angeli

Mario Schifano

One part of the exhibition focuses on his friendship with Mario Schifano and Tano Festa, which became a professional and artistic partnership as well.

An interesting painting is titled Mario (Portrait of Mario Schifano)

Franco Angeli Mario Ritratto di Mario Schifano
Mario Ritratto di Mario Schifano


In Franco Angeli’s world, we can clearly perceive how crucial political involvement was for him.

His initial, uncritical adherence to the Communist Party may have given way to a certain melancholy disillusionment.

Franco Angeli Casa rossa con piramide
Casa rossa con piramide

Franco Angeli’s Rome

Rome and its inheritance came to be increasingly reflected in the Angeli’s work with its obelisks, wolf, pyramid, and so on.

Especially in the 1980s, these symbols made their way into his art as he turned his metaphysical gaze to its landscape.

The energy in Franco Angeli’s works carries you into a new realm.

Franco Angeli Zona Cesarini

Zona Cesarini

The puppet

In the 1980s, the puppet was a recurring theme, like a self-portrait.

Near the end of his life, as Angeli was taking stock of it, he represented himself as a puppet with no autonomy. We will never know who he considered his puppet master.


The first thought that came up is that looking at Angeli’s works we span his entire career with its developments, contradictions, and, importantly, its integrity.

The second thought, perhaps obvious, is that you can flip through endless catalogue pages, but Franco Angeli’s paintings should be seen in person. This lets us share with the artist his power, his pain, and his rage – his story.


Franco Angeli Artworks 1958-1988


until March 26, 2023