The Société des Artistes Indépendants (English: Society of Independent Artists), founded in Paris on 18 October 1910, was an artist-run organization that functioned as both a showcase and a forum for artistic innovation and exchange, particularly for avant-garde and modern artists, who were often excluded from more traditional exhibitions and salons. The society was established by a group of artists that included Marcel Duchamp, Henri Matisse, and Pablo Picasso. Aleksandr Rodchenko and Malevich also were associated with the group. The “Rayonnistes” and others participated regularly. The society opened its first exhibition on 2 April 1911 at the Salon des Indépendants with rounds of applause. It also provided a venue for such innovations as Dada and Surrealism. Works by Pablo Picasso, Wassily Kandinsky, Aleksandr Archipenko, Jean Metzinger, Albert Gleizes, Marcel Duchamp and others were exhibited. The administration of the society was not democratic; members were screened by jury. Participation was limited to those who had been rejected by the Salon or by another official art exhibition.
At the outset, the society was admittance-by-application only, with a fee of 10 francs and an unlimited number of artists allowed to apply. For the first exhibition, 841 artists submitted 2,127 works; the jury accepted only 10 percent of these submissions. A new rule was passed for the second exhibition in 1912, which limited the number of works that a single artist could exhibit to one. By 1922 this participation fee had risen to 100 francs, which excluded a number of artists who were unable to afford the fee. The society had no fixed address, but met frequently in various venues including the Cafe du Dôme and the Grand Palais. The society also rented exhibition space from the Louvre on a regular basis.
In December 1917, the society announced that a new location at 17, rue des Beaux- Arts, Paris, had been secured. A few months later, the society moved into this space, which became its permanent home. The building, which still stands today, was designed by architect Henri Vever. The society remained at this address until 1960, when it moved to a new location on the rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré.
In addition to its exhibitions, the society also organized lectures, discussions, and concerts.Notable lecturers included Wassily Kandinsky, Piet Mondrian, André Breton, and Max Ernst. Despite its original intent to maintain its independence from the mainstream art world, by 1914 the society had become an important part of the Parisian art scene, and was frequently visited by artists, dealers, and collectors. The society also served as a platform for younger and less well-known artists to exhibit their work. In its heyday, the society had over two thousand members.
The society began to decline in the mid-1920s, due largely to financial problems. The onset of World War II also contributed to the society’s demise; many artists who were members of the society left Paris during the war years, and those who remained were unable to mount regular exhibitions. The society was dissolved in 1947, though a group of artists who were former members continued to meet until 1951.
In the 1960s, there was a renewed interest in the work of the society, and several exhibitions of work by members of the society were mounted. Today, the work of the society is seen as an important precursor to the development of abstract art in the 20th century.