Nouveau réalisme  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

New Realism (in French: Nouveau Réalisme) refers to an artistic movement founded in 1960 by the art critic Pierre Restany and the painter Yves Klein during the first collective exposition in the Apollinaire gallery in Milan. Pierre Restany wrote the original manifesto for the group, titled the "Constitutive Declaration of New Realism," in April 1960. Proclaiming "New Realism New Perceptive Approaches of the Real," this joint declaration was signed on October 27, 1960, in Yves Klein's workshop, by nine people: Yves Klein, Arman, Francois Dufrêne, Raymond Hains, Martial Raysse, Pierre Restany, Daniel Spoerri, Jean Tinguely and Jacques de la Villeglé; in 1961 these were joined by César, Mimmo Rotella, then Niki de Saint Phalle and Gérard Deschamps. The artist Christo joined the group in 1963.

Contemporaries of American Pop Art, and often conceived as its transposition in France, New Realism was, along with Fluxus and others groups, one of the numerous tendencies of the avant-garde in the 1960s. It was dissolved in 1970.

The first exposition of the "Nouveaux réalistes" took place in November 1960 at the Paris "Festival d'avant-garde. This exposition was followed by others: in May 1961 at the Gallery J.; in New York in 1962; and at the Biennale of San Marino in 1963 (which would be the last collective show by the group). The movement had difficulty maintaining a cohesive program after the death of Yves Klein.

Conceptions of New Realism

The members of the group saw the world as an image, from which they would take parts and incorporate them into their works. They sought to bring life and art closer together. These artists declared that they had come together on the basis of a new awareness of their "collective singularity", meaning that they were together in spite of, or perhaps because of, their differences.

For all the diversity of their plastic language, they perceived a common basis for their work, this being a method of direct appropriation of reality, equivalent, in the terms used by Pierre Restany, to a "poetic recycling of urban, industrial and advertising reality".

They advocated a return to "reality," in opposition with the lyricism of abstract painting, but avoiding the traps of figurative art, connotated either as petty-bourgeois or as stalinist. They used exterior objects to give an account of the reality of their time. They were the inventor of the décollage technique (the opposite of collages), in particular through the use of lacerated posters, a technique mastered by François Dufrene, Jacques Villeglé, Mimmo Rotella and Raymond Hains. Often these artists worked collaboratively and it was their intention to present their artworks in the city of Paris anonymously.

The term of "New Realism" was first used in May 1960 by Pierre Restany, to design the works of Arman, François Dufrêne, Raymond Hains, Yves Klein, Jean Tinguely and Jacques Villeglé, exposed in Milan. He had discussed of it before with Klein, who preferred the expression "today's realism" (réalisme d'aujourd'hui) and criticized the term of "New." After the first "Manifest of New Realism," a second manifest, titled "40° above Dada" (40° au-dessus de Dada) was written between May 17 and June 10, 1961. César, Mimmo Rotella, Niki de Saint-Phalle (then practicing "shooting paintings") and Gérard Deschamps then joined the movement, followed by Christo in 1963. Klein, however, took his distances as soon as 1961, recusing the Dadaist heritage.

The New Realism movement has often been compared to the Pop Art movement in New York for their use and critique of mass-produced commercial objects (Villeglé's ripped cinema posters, Arman's collections of detritus and trash), although New Realism maintained closer ties with Dada than with Pop Art.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Nouveau réalisme" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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