After the chiefly Brussels’ Art Abstrait and Espace in 1952 and later Formes in 1956 gave new momentum to the abstract as the first post-War groups, in Antwerp, the G58 (Group 1958) shall take up the torch. The immediate cause is the nearly complete lack of official support of modern art and the anticipation of the world exhibition Expo ’58. From the avant-garde rings centred around the publications Gard-Sivik and Het Cahier, the need grows for a platform, where in addition to visual art, music, film and poetry also can seek out new artistic horizons.
After G58 first organises a series of solo exhibitions in the Middelheim castle, it then receives an opportunity from the city management to establish a location in the centre. The Hessenhuis, on the corner of the Hessenplein and the Falconrui, is fixed up by the participating artists and thus becomes the new home for the second wave of abstract art. Along with Vic Gentils, Walter Leblanc, Paul Van Hoeydonck, Jef Verheyen and others, as well as being enhanced by the critic Marc Callewaert, a strong generation is there for the offering. From previous initiatives, such as Raaklijn in Bruges, on the one hand, they are able to learn how to bridge the gap with the first generation of the Pure Plasticism. It is no coincidence that both Jozef Peeters and René Guiette receive the honorary chairmanship of the Antwerp group G58. Beyond the important exhibition The First Abstracts in Belgium: Homage to the Pioneers in 1959, the group honours both chairmen with retrospective exhibitions. With this G58, which evolved from the abstract art to the new informal art, connects the 1920’s (with Peeters) and the 1940’s (with Guiette) with the imminent 1960’s. On the other hand, the international trajectory of La jeune peinture Belge shows them the path to follow. In addition to France and Germany, the Italian contacts primarily ensure for ground-breaking projects. Aside from Anti-Peinture, primarily Vision in motion-Motion in vision and Zero shall prove to be historic exhibitions with contributions from Piero Manzoni and Jean Tinguely, among others. In 1960, a dissident group, the Nieuwe Vlaamse School, already appears, helmed by Jef Verheyen and Paul De Vree (chief editor of De Tafelronde).
G58 shall for all intents and purposes only exist for four years. However, in addition to the many (international) individual exhibitions and group exhibitions, G58 shall provide an impetus to the various avant-garde initiatives. They could be both polemical, with for example the historic televised debate Figuratieve of Abstracte Kunst? (November 1960) as well as activist, such as De Vree’s Modernistisch Centrum and the Filmgroep ’58.
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