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“New Realisms”

Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía

THE TITLE OF THIS EXTRAORDINARY EXHIBITION at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía—“New Realisms: 1957–1962”—is one of its several provocative maneuvers. The French movement known as Nouveau Réalisme first came to New York City—thanks in no small part to Pierre Restany’s egomaniacal, chauvinistic rhetoric and superlative networking abilities—with William Seitz’s “The Art of Assemblage” at the Museum of Modern Art in 1961 and Sidney Janis’s gallery show “The New Realists” the following year. If the former dug into history (Mallarmé, Apollinaire, Picasso) in order to legitimate the complete abandonment of a painterly lexicon, the latter stressed the transatlantic nature of the conversation taking place. In the gap between those exhibitions, we can perceive many of the shifts that curator Julia Robinson underscores with her own title. “The Art of Assemblage” had borne witness to the

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