Nouveau Réalisme consists of a diverse group of artists from various countries, all with strong original personalities, who have decisively contributed to affirming free, daring, creative experimentation practices with a close relationship between art and life.
Its protagonists used extra-artistic materials taken from the context of everyday reality and had an ironic and critical attitude towards consumer society. Their art was in direct contact with the ordinary components of both the public and private urban scene: from worn-out household objects to carcasses of cars and old mechanical pieces, from images of rotogravures to advertising posters affixed in the streets, up to actual waste abandoned in bins or landfills.
The typical operational practices of Nouveau Réalisme – in particular the assemblages and collages – can be defined as “Neo-Dadaist”, as they reflected the provocative irony and randomness of the Dada works. The historical Dadaist Kurt Schwitters had already stated that he did not see the reason why “old tickets, pieces of imbued wood, wardrobe countermarks, iron wire, pieces of wheels, buttons, old boards found in piles of waste” could not be used as artistic materials, as he had done in his environmental works.
The constitutive declaration of Nouveau Réalisme written by the critic Pierre Restany and signed on 27 October 1960 in the Paris studio of the artist Yves Klein read: “The new realists have become aware of their collective singularity. New Realism = new perceptual approach to reality”.
In addition to Yves Klein, the main members of the movement were Arman, César, Raymond Hayns, Jacques Villeglé, Mimmo Rotella, Daniele Spoerri, Jean Tinguely and Niki de Saint Phalle.
Christo and Jeanne-Claude were friends with Restany and the group’s artists and had participated in various exhibitions together, but never considered themselves actual members of the Nouveau Réalisme.