Yves Klein - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Wednesday, May 18, 2022 | Phillips

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  • "The real blue was inside, the blue of the profundity of space, the blue of my kingdom, of our kingdom!...the materialization of blue, the colored space that cannot be seen but which we impregnate ourselves with."
    —Yves Klein

    Emerging from the seminal year of 1957 when Yves Klein inaugurated his self-proclaimed “Epoque bleue,” the present work belongs to the artist’s historic series of Monochrome bleu paintings that laid the foundation of his legendary career.i Showcasing the signature pigment that became tantamount to the artist’s life and oeuvre, Monochrome bleu sans titre (IKB 267) immerses the viewer into a chromatic expanse of International Klein Blue (IKB). Yielding to a highly textured surface, softly raised ridges catch light as smoother recessions glow like a fluorescent blue sea, manifesting the dynamic incandescence that his color could achieve through his painterly experimentations with surface texture. Teetering between the material and immaterial, the present work testifies to the “idea of absolute unity in perfect serenity” that Klein captured in his legendary investigations with the monochrome which transformed the post-war European landscape.ii

     

    Yves Klein at his exhibition Yves Klein: Proposte monocrome, epoca blu at the Galleria Apollinaire, Milan, 1957. Image and Artwork: © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

    Among the earliest of nearly 200 blue monochrome paintings Klein created in his lifetime, Monochrome bleu sans titre (IKB 267) was conceived in the year Klein famously trademarked his signature hue and debuted this revolutionary body of work to the public at the Galleria Apollinaire, Milan. Radically departing from the various colored monochromes shown at his first two solo shows in 1955 and 1956, Klein presented 11 IKB monochromes of the same size, vertical orientation, and visual aesthetic at the Milan show, marking the beginning of the artist’s paradigm-shifting Blue Period. The present work maintains the classic dimensions and richly textured surface of the canvases displayed at this groundbreaking exhibition, one of which was notably purchased by Lucio Fontana. Indeed, it perfectly embodies Pierre Restany’s now famous appreciation of the early IKB monochromes from 1957: “Blue dominates, reigns, lives. It is the Blue-King of the most definitive of surmounted frontiers, the Blue of the frescoes of Assisi. This full void, this nothing which encloses Everything Possible, this supernatural asthenic silence of color which finally, beyond anecdote and formal pretext, makes the formal grandeur of a Giotto.”iii

     

    Lucio Fontana, Concetto spaziale – Attese, 1962-1963. Städel Museum, Frankfurt. Image: bpk Bildagentur / Städel Museum, Frankfurt / Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © 2022 Fondation Lucio Fontana / Artists Rights Society, New York

    "This sense of the complete freedom of sensibly pure space exerted upon me such a power of attraction that I painted monochrome surfaces to see, with my own eyes to SEE, what was visible in the absolute."
    —Yves Klein

    Indeed, it was in this pivotal year that works such as Monochrome bleu sans titre (IKB 267) left a profound impact on Klein’s Spatialist contemporaries including Fontana and Piero Manzoni, the former even remarking that “Klein is the one who understands the problem of space with his blue dimension...He is really abstract, one of the artists who have done something important.”iv Born at the commencement of the Space Age zeitgeist, the early IKB monochromes comprising the present work both informed and solidified Klein’s artistic philosophies on “the conquest of space.”v In his mind, this conquest was achieved not by technological achievements to allow man-made objects, and eventually humankind, to explore outer space, but by channeling the very sensibility of this immaterial realm through a “sensibly pure space,” which he equated to color. As he declared, “Through color I feel the sentiment of complete identification with space; I am truly free…To feel the soul without explanation, without vocabulary, and to represent that feeling...This is, I believe, foremost among the reasons that led me to the monochrome!”vi

     

    Piero Manzoni, Achrome, 1957-1958. Art Institute of Chicago. Image: © The Art Institute of Chicago, Purchased with funds provided by an anonymous donor; promised gift of private collection, 2000.309 / Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © 2022 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SIAE, Rome

    "First there is nothing, then there is a deep nothing, then there is a blue depth." 
    —Gaston Bachelard, Air and Dreams, 1943

    For Klein, blue was the color that would allow him to realize the infinite, ethereal space of the universe on canvas. The artist, whose sensibility was partially informed by his upbringing on the Mediterranean coast in Nice, found the color of the sea and sky to reflect the immeasurable dimensions of nature. Klein’s pursuit of painterly transcendence began as early as 1947 at the age of nineteen when, while laying on a beach in Nice with his friends Arman and Claude Pascal, he announced, “The blue sky is my first artwork” and proceeded to sign the sky.vii As Hannah Weitemeier observed, “With this famous symbolic gesture of signing the sky, Klein had foreseen, as in a reverie, the thrust of his art from that time onwards—a quest to reach the far side of the infinite.”viii Having found affirmation in Bachelard’s address on the imaginary beyond of the blue sky, which the artist had read in his early years, Klein eventually achieved his quest to materialize the immaterial world in works such as Monochrome bleu sans titre (IKB 267). Here, the textured surface overflows to the edges of the canvas, abolishing spatial perspective and enveloping the viewer into the composition to suggest the expanse of eternity. 

     

    Caspar David Friedrich, Monk By the Sea, 1808-1810. Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen, Berlin. Image: bpk Bildagentur / Staatliche Museen, Berlin / Art Resource, NY

     

    Wanting his viewers to “bathe in a cosmic sensibility” through his monochromes, Klein sought to capture the purest tone of blue that would radiate with the visual intensity and transcendent evocations he wished to convey.ix Through the 1950s, Klein worked with a chemical retailer to realize a formula that would preserve the luminescence of raw blue pigment, as he found that traditional fixatives like oil dulled the color’s vitality. The result was the brilliant ultramarine seen here—his singular palette of International Klein Blue, created by suspending blue pigment in synthetic resin. With its piercing glow and mystical energy, the present work reflects Klein’s conviction that the extrasensorial power of IKB would theoretically dematerialize the canvas, allowing the beholder to “impregnate himself with color and color [to] impregnate itself into him,” and thus transcend reality by delving into an infinite spiritual realm.x

     

     

    Epitomizing Klein’s now legendary notion of “impregnation,” the present work materializes the artist’s aim to entwine the viewer and the mystical realm of color into a unified essence with its weave-like surface. Monochrome bleu sans titre (IKB 267), along with its eponymous series, marks the first and purest material expression of Klein’s program that chartered the course of his all-too-brief yet revolutionary career. Beyond textured canvases, Klein would go on to embark on various explorations with his newly crafted medium of IKB, from his series of sponge works to planetary reliefs, folding screens to Anthropométries. Indeed the artist’s IKB monochromes would form the cornerstone, not only of his entire oeuvre which he dubbed “The Monochrome Adventure,” but ultimately his own self-identification as “Yves le Monochrome.” Through this lens, the present work encapsulates Klein’s poetic words: “My paintings are the ashes of my art. It is the monochrome that make me the most intoxicated…I do believe that it is only in the monochrome that I truly live the pictorial life, the painterly life of which I have dreamed.”xi

     

    i Yves Klein, quoted in Jacques Caumont and Jennifer Gough-Cooper, eds., Yves Klein, 1928 – 1962, Selected Writings, exh. cat., Tate, London, 1974, p. 31.
    ii Yves Klein, quoted in Yves Peintures, exh. cat., Club des Solitaires, Paris, 1955, p. 33.
    iii Pierre Restany, quoted in Sidra Stich, Yves Klein, exh. cat., Hayward Gallery, London, 1994, p. 81.
    iv Lucio Fontana, quoted in Tommaso Trini, “The last interview given by Fontana,” in Lucio Fontana, exh. cat., Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 1988, p. 34.
    v Yves Klein, trans. Klaus Ottmann, Overcoming the Problematics of Art: The Writings of Yves, New York, 2007, p. 75.
    vi Yves Klein, “L’aventure monochrome” [1958], quoted in Yves Klein, exh. cat., Centre Georges Pompidou, Musée national d’art moderne, Paris, 1983, p. 171.
    vii Yves Klein, quoted by Arman in Thomas McEvilley, “Yves Klein: Conquistador of the Void,” in Yves Klein 1928-1962: A Retrospective, exh. cat., Institute for the Arts, Rice University, Houston, 1982, p. 46.
    viii Hannah Weitemeier, Yves Klein, 1928–1962: Internacional Klein Blue, trans. Carmen Sánchez Rodríguez, Cologne, 2001, p. 8.
    ix Yves Klein, quoted in Klaus Ottmann, Yves Klein by Himself: His Life and Thought, Paris, 2010, p. 53.
    x Yves Klein, quoted in Sidra Stich, Yves Klein, exh. cat., Hayward Gallery, London, 1994, p. 66.
    xi Yves Klein, trans. Klaus Ottmann, Overcoming the Problematics of Art: The Writings of Yves, New York, 2007, p. 143.

    • Provenance

      Gallery One (Victor Musgrave), London
      Illa & Josef Kodicek, London (acquired from the above circa 1960)
      The Kodicek Collection of Modern Pictures, Christie's, London, June 23, 1993, lot 329
      Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      London, Gallery One, Yves Klein, 1960
      Cologne, Museum Ludwig (no. 22, p. 283, illustrated, p. 86); London, Hayward Gallery (no. 22, p. 282, illustrated, p. 86); Madrid, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía (no. 24, p. 283, illustrated, p. 86; erroneously numbered as no. 22, p. 86), Yves Klein, November 8, 1994–August 29, 1995
      Museo d'Arte Moderna della Città di Lugano, Passioni d'Arte da Picasso a Warhol. Capolavori del collezionismo in Ticino, September 22–December 8, 2002, pp. 220, 318 (illustrated, p. 221)

    • Literature

      Matthias Koddenberg, ed., Yves Klein: in/out studio, Dortmund, 2016, p. 300 (illustrated, p. 85)

Property from an Important European Private Collection

7

Monochrome bleu sans titre (IKB 267)

pigment and synthetic resin on linen mounted on board
30 5/8 x 21 7/8 in. (77.8 x 55.6 cm)
Executed in 1957, this work is registered in the Yves Klein Archives under the number IKB 267 and is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity signed by Rotraut Klein Moquay.

Full Cataloguing

Estimate
$2,000,000 - 3,000,000 

Sold for $2,752,500

Contact Specialist

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20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 18 May 2022