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It is with great pleasure that the Basil & Elise Goulandris Foundation presents, at its Athens Museum, an international exhibition dedicated to Nouveau Réalisme, the explosive, revolutionary movement between Dada and Pop Art that radically changed 20th century art.
Nouveau Réalisme, or New Realism, is one of the major art movements of the 20th century and it emerged at a turning point in History, when art ceased being called modern and became contemporary. Some of its 13 members became well-known artists who have left their mark on art.
Eight of these artists were present on October 27, 1960, the day that the joint declaration written by art critic Pierre Restany that briefly defined New Realism as the “new perceptive approaches to reality” was signed. In alphabetical order, those were Arman, François Dufrêne, Raymond Hains, Yves Klein, Martial Raysse, Daniel Spoerri, Jean Tinguely and Jacques Villeglé.
Later, and following an invitation by Restany, the group was joined by César, Mimmo Rotella, Niki de Saint Phalle, Gérard Deschamps and then Christo. Most of these artists’ joint projects occurred between 1960 and 1963 and continued at a slower pace until 1970, the year that the group pompously celebrated its ten-year anniversary in Milan.
Restany consciously chose the term Realism as a reference to the artistic and literary movement that grew in Western Europe in the mid-19th century. The movement’s main representative in the field of painting was Gustave Courbet, who described Realism as “the negation of the ideal”. Following his example, the members of New Realism set themselves to transcribing in their art their own perception of the world, in a society that had become industrialised, urban to its largest extent and dominated by advertising and mass production.
The aesthetic choices and artistic concerns of the members of this ephemeral yet major art movement turned them into pioneers in many timely issues that exceed the boundaries of art: the ambiguous role of industry, the importance of recycling as well as the necessity to review matters related to climate change and ecology.
The present exhibition has not been designed to provide a strict historical approach. Instead, we chose to highlight the youthful, bustling, playful spirit of these artists, who left their mark on their era.
This tribute would never have been possible without the ready support of both private individual owners and institutions who lent us works and responded to our invitation with enthusiasm and generosity, among them the Centre Pompidou in Paris.
The exhibition further includes a rich archive that travels visitors to the many and highly interesting ephemeral creations of these artists, accompanied by different interviews.
The Nouveau Réalisme exhibition features more than 50 works and justifies the instinct of Basil and Elise Goulandris, who paid tribute to the movement of New Realism in their Collection by acquiring works by Christo, Saint Phalle, Tinguely and particularly César, who was also their friend.
Marion Meyer, President of the Man Ray International Association and Marie Koutsomallis-Moreau, Head of Collection at the Basil & Elise Goulandris Foundation, are the exhibition’s curators. The design is by Andreas Georgiadis and Paraskevi Gerolymatou.
The exhibition is accompanied by a bilingual, approximately 300-page catalogue, that includes texts by Marie Koutsomallis-Moreau as well as rich archive material, published by the Basil & Elise Goulandris Foundation and edited by Mikri Arktos. Specialised guided tours take place throughout the exhibition as well as educational programmes for children and adults.
Christo (1935-2020), “Wrapped Coast (Project for Australia, near Sydney)”, 1969. Pencil, crayon, twine and polyethylene on paper laid down on board, 71 × 55.6 cm. Basil & Elise Goulandris Foundation Collection © ADAGP, Paris / ΟΣΔΕΕΤΕ, 2023