Zero is a group of artists founded by "Heinz Mack and "Otto Piene and the name of their magazine. The word “zero” expressed, in Piene’s words, “a zone of silence and of pure possibilities for a new beginning.” The movement is commonly interpreted as reaction to "Abstract Expressionism by arguing that art should be void of color, emotion and individual expression.
Zero was the name of a magazine founded in 1957 by "Heinz Mack that ceased publication in 1967. Manifestos were often published in association with the shows, such as Zero 1 (1958), Zero 2 (1958), and Zero 3 (1961). These included texts in multiple languages written by artists and curators active in the Zero circle who sought to define what they termed The New Artistic Conception. The involved artists soon established a vigorous network of collaboration and exchange. Like-minded practitioners came above all from France ("Arman, "Jean Tinguely, and "Yves Klein), Italy ("Lucio Fontana, "Piero Manzoni, "Turi Simeti, "Agostino Bonalumi), Spain ("Antoni Tàpies), and Austria ("Arnulf Rainer). In the Netherlands, the “informal group” of Nul (Dutch for 'zero') artists began around 1958 and can be narrowed to four: Jan Schoonhoven, "Armando, Jan Henderikse and "Henk Peeters, who were linked to the Italian and German painters but penned their own manifesto. Latin American artists, like the Venezuelan "Jesús Rafael Soto, the Argentine Luis Tomasello, and Brazilian Almir Mavignier became affiliated with Zero while working in Paris in the 1950s.
Mack and Piene invited artists like "Günther Uecker to exhibit in their studio, and the three friends became the founding fathers of the Zero movement, which would soon reach out to embrace artists throughout Europe. Working in an environment without galleries and contemporary art spaces, these artists came together to exhibit their work in a series of one-day-only evening exhibitions, often staged in their studios.
In March 1959, artists "Pol Bury, Paul van Hoeydonck, "Jean Tinguely, and "Daniel Spoerri organized "Motion in Vision – Vision in Motion", an exhibition at Hessenhuis in Antwerpen that for the first time gave ZERO an international audience. In 1961, Düsseldorf-based Galerie Schmela mounted "ZERO. Edition, Exposition, Demonstration". The movement's first group exhibitions in the United States were shown at "Howard Wise Gallery, New York, and "Washington Gallery of Modern Art, Washington D.C., in 1964.
Under the rubric "Zero. Artists of a European Movement," a 2006 exhibition at the Museum der Moderne Salzburg presented 120 works by 50 Zero artists. The works were loaned by the German collectors Gerhard and Anna Lenz, a German couple that was involved with the Zero movement almost from its beginnings. Gerhard Lenz had first encountered the Zero group at an exhibition of Piene’s work in a Düsseldorf bookshop more in 1963. From 1974, the couple exhibited the collection in 12 shows over 25 years, including in Frankfurt, Barcelona, Moscow, and Warsaw.
"The Art of Zero", a 2013/2014 exhibition at the "Neuberger Museum of Art included works from the museum's permanent collection, by artists who were part of or exhibited with Group Zero, including "Getulio Alviani, Hartmut Böhm, "Enrico Castellani, Gianni Colombo, "Lucio Fontana, "Heinz Mack, Almir Mavignier, "Henk Peeters, "Otto Piene, "Jesús Rafael Soto, "Jean Tinguely, Luis Tomasello, and "Günther Uecker.
In October 2014 the "Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum showcased the group’s work in “ZERO: Countdown to Tomorrow, 1950s-60s”, an exhibition that featured more than 40 artists from over 10 countries. This was the first large-scale historical survey of the group's work in United States.
From 2 September 2015 to 10 January 2016 ZERO:Countdown to the Future was on display in Sakıp Sabancı Museum in Istanbul, Turkey.
Interest in Zero artists has seen an extraordinary resurgence in recent years, with works from European painters of the period achieving records at auction. In 2010, "Sotheby's auctioned off parts the collection of Gerhard and Anna Lenz in London. Initially valued at 12 million pounds ($19.5 million), the 49 paintings, drawings and low-relief panels made up from a variety of media were sold in an evening auction reaching £54.07 million, or about $84.5 million; unusual for a contemporary art sale, 74 of the 77 lots offered sold, resulting in a 96 percent success rate. The sale set 19 world auction records for Zero artists.
Moeller Fine Art, New York, represents the estate of Howard Wise, the dealer who died in 1989 and ran what was perhaps the first New York gallery to display work by Zero artists. Also, "Sperone Westwater Gallery has been showing Zero artists for years and presented an all-Zero show in 2009.