They had no money, no army, no religion. But they did have art.

The Zero Revolution - Henk Peeters

A film by Sherman De Jesus

Director: Sherman De Jesus


Henk Peeters played a significant role as passionate artist and curator avant-la-lettre, in the international ZERO-movement. Long after the ZERO-groups break up he tries to stay true to the ideals. An aim that becomes increasingly impossible when his collection of ZERO-works gets auctioned for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

ZERO gets a lot of worldwide attention. At this moment the largest ZERO-survey exhibition in the world, previously displayed in the Guggenheim Museum (New York) and the Martin-Gropius-Bau (Berlin) is now displayed at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. In The Zero Revolution – Henk Peeters the artists looks back on his artistry as an old man, his role in the ZERO-movement and his relationship with artists such as Yayoi Kusama.

The artist network ZERO of which Henk Peeters with Jan Schoonhoven, Armando and Jan Henderikse formed the Dutch NUL-group, changed art forever with a radical and renewing attitude, in the fifties and sixties. After the Second World War Henk Peeters travelled through Europe and met likeminded artists such as Lucio Fontana, Piero Manzoni, Yves Klein and Gunther Uecker in Italy, France and Germany.

Unique archive footage of young Henk Peeters, Jan Schoonhoven, Armando and Jan Henderikse are juxtaposed with recent interviews. We see how the reaction on their first work induces a shockwave in the art world. The ZERO-artists are greeted with sneers. Over fifty years later ZERO rises with big exhibitions in prestigious museums such as Guggenheim, Martin-Gropius-Bau and the Stedelijk Museum.

After the break-up of the movement in 1966 Peeters decides to focus on teaching at the art academy in Arnhem (the current ArtEZ). In the film his former students Joke Robaard and Paul Damsté talk about his quirky way of teaching. Widow Truus Peeters-Nienhuis reminisces about her life with Henk Peeters andthe multiple visits of the ZERO-artists to their home in Arnhem. Ad Petersen, former curator of the Stedelijk Museum, talks about the last ZERO exhibition in the Stedelijk Museum in the sixties.

Henk Peeters tries to stay true to his beliefs until long after the end of ZERO. An aim that seems increasingly impossible when his collection of ZERO-works gets auctioned at Sotheby’s. The auction is a huge success, but it doesn’t make the old artist cheerful. His last words about that are striking: “Yes, that’s how that time is. That’s how it goes. And now I’m sold out.”