Nouveau Réalisme (French for New Realism) refers to a loose group of artists around the art critic Pierre Restany that emerged as a programmatic movement in early 1960. The group initially chose Nice, the place of residence of Yves Klein and Arman, as its base.
The first manifesto of this New Realism, Les Nouveaux Réalistes, was published in April 1960 in the catalogue of a Milan group exhibition of French and Swiss artists at the Apollinaire Gallery in Milan. Yves Klein and Pierre Restany, Arman (Armand Fernandez), François Dufrêne, an ultra-lettrist, Raymond Hains, Martial Raysse, Daniel Spoerri, Jean Tinguely and Jacques de la Villeglé then signed on 27. In Klein's flat on 27 October 1960, they officially signed this constitutive declaration of a New Realism (La Déclaration constitutive du Nouveau Realisme), which reads: "The 'Nouveaux Réalistes' have become aware of their collective uniqueness. Nouveau Réalisme = new approach of the perceptive capacity to the real." Nine copies of the manifesto (seven on blue paper, one each on pink and gold paper) were signed.
Forty Degrees Above Dada, Au 40° (Quarante degrés) au dessus de Dada, the second manifesto, was also the title of Jeannine Restany's first Galerie J exhibition in Paris in May 1961. Pierre Restany's text introduces the exhibition catalogue. César (César Baldaccini) and Mimmo Rotella had joined the group, with Gérard Deschamps and Niki de Saint Phalle still to come. Christo (Christo Jaracheff) participated in exhibitions but was never officially a member. In the autumn of 1961, almost all the members of the Nouveaux Réalistes took part in the exhibition The Art of Assemblage, organised by the Museum of Modern Art in New York, which introduced the concept of assemblage into the art historical literature.
At the end of 1962, a major international exhibition of the New Realists, the International Exhibition of the New Realists, was held in New York. 54 artists presented works. The organiser was the Sidney Janis Gallery. Restany's people, together with Italians and Englishmen and a Swede measured themselves against the young American and against some British Pop artists.