Friday, April 13, 2007

Le Nouveau Réalisme at Galeries du Grand Palais

Le Nouveau Réalisme at Galeries du Grand Palais

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Raymond Hains, Saffa, 1964, Bois peint sur contreplaqué. Collection privée, Paris. Courtesy Galerie Georges-Philippe et Nathalie Vallois. © ADAGP, Paris 2007.

PARIS, FRANCE.- Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais present Le Nouveau Réalisme, on view through July 2, 2007, An exhibition jointly produced by the Rmn, the Centre Pompidou, Paris and the Sprengel Museum Hannover, Hanover, to be shown at the Sprengel Museum Hannover from 9 September 2007 to 27 January 2008. Lasting from the late 1950s to the mid-1960s, New Realism was part of an overall drive to renew artistic forms and themes in a booming consumer and industrial society, in reaction to the immediate post-war period: Neo-Dada, Pop Art, Fluxus, Zero Group, New Realists…Klein, Hains, Villeglé, Tinguely, César, Arman, Spoerri, Raysse, Dufrêne, Rotella, Niki de Saint Phalle, Deschamps, Christo – dubbed the "New Realists"* by the art critic Pierre Restany – held many group shows and happenings. They integrated scraps of the everyday urban industrial world into their works (fences, barrels, plastic items, rubbish, cars or traffic signs...) - Compressions by César, Accumulations by Arman, scraped and slashed posters by Hains and Villeglé, Assemblages of ordinary plastic items by Raysse, Trap-Pictures by Spoerri, sculptures that self-destruct by Tinguely, Shootings by Niki de Saint Phalle… - in a truly radical approach which has now been forgotten.

Although New Realism was at the cutting edge of the French art scene in the post-war period, it is nearly twenty years since it was last presented as a movement in a major exhibition (1960.The New Realists, Paris, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, 1986). Many of its artists (Martial Raysse, César, Arman, Tinguely, Hains, The Poster Artists…) have benefited from a retrospective since the 1980s, but the fact that they belonged to a group which was active on the international scene in the 1960s (United States, Italy, Germany) is now little known and often played down. It is time for a fresh look and a new interpretation. Moreover, at a time when these artists are disappearing, one after another, – Niki de Saint Phalle, César, Hains, Restany, Arman, Rotella… – it is important to collect the last first-hand accounts of a period which is fast becoming history, although it is being reclaimed in an astonishing way by many young artists today.

The exhibition of about 200 works shows the vitality of “New Realism” through the reconstitution or display of some installations and a thematic and historical circuit which explores the special features of the movement and the highlights of their shared adventure. It focuses on a decade – from 1958 to 1965/69 – the time of its group shows, an extremely dense and lively period which was later obscured by the artists’ individual careers.

As well as works by artists directly attached to the movement, the exhibition includes a few pieces by artists who were close to them (the "Objectors" united by Alain Jouffroy such as Raynaud, Pommereulle, Dietman, or again Malaval and Jacquet; artists who came from Fluxus such as Filliou or Vostell, or from Zero Group, such as Günther Uecker; American neo-Dadaists, Rauschenberg, Stankiewicz, Johns, Bontecou, Chamberlain…) in an effort to show the many different currents that animated the movement and to avoid reducing New Realism, as is too often done, to an emblematic, schematic presentation of a few actions.

Klein, Raysse, Arman, Dufrêne, Villeglé, Hains, Spoerri, Tinguely and Restany himself signed the Declaration of New Realism on 27 October 1960 – a spectacular gesture staged by the critic for a group which in Arman’s opinion would last only twenty minutes. In a deeper vein, it was more an attitude and a movement which became known as New Realism, encompassing the signatories and other artists close to them : Deschamps, Niki de Saint Phalle, Rotella, Christo.

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