1958 - 1960

The Heartbeat of France Portrait of Yves Klein during the shooting of Peter Morley "The Heartbeat of France", 1961
Charles Wilp's studio, Düsseldorf, Germany
© Photo : Charles Wilp / BPK, Berlin

Yves Klein, born in 1928 in Nice, had as a first vocation to be a judoka. It was only back in Paris, in 1954, that he dedicated himself fully to art, setting out on his ‘adventure into monochrome’.

Animated by a quest to ‘liberate colour from the prison that is the line’, Yves Klein directed his attention to the monochrome which, to him, was the only form of painting that allowed to ‘make visible the absolute’.

By choosing to express feeling rather than figurative form, Yves Klein moved beyond ideas of artistic representation, conceiving the work of art instead as a trace of communication between the artist and the world; invisible truth made visible. His works, he said, were to be ‘the ashes of his art’, traces of that which the eye could not see.

Yves Klein’s practice revealed of new way of conceptualising the role of the artist, conceiving his whole life as an artwork. ‘Art is everywhere that the artist goes’, he once declared. According to him, beauty existed everywhere, but in a state of invisibility. His task was to to capture beauty wherever it might be found, in matter as in air.

The artist used blue as the vehicle for his quest to capture immateriality and the infinite. His celebrated bluer-than-blue hue, soon to be named ‘IKB’ (International Klein Blue), radiates colourful waves, engaging not only the eyes of the viewer, but in fact allowing us see with our souls, to read with our imaginations.

From monochromes, to the void, to his ‘technique of living brushes’ or ‘Anthropometry’; by way of his deployment of nature’s elements in order to manifest their creative life-force; and his use of gold as a portal to the absolute; Yves Klein developed a ground-breaking practice that broke down boundaries between conceptual art, sculpture, painting, and performance.

Just before dying, Yves Klein told a friend, "I am going to go into the biggest studio in the world, and I will only do immaterial works." 

Between May 1954 and June 6, 1962, the date of his death, Yves Klein burned his life to make a flamboyant work that marked his era and still shines today.
  • 1958 - 1960

    Overcoming the problematics of art

    Winner of an international competition launched in 1957 by Gelsenkirchen in Germany, Yves Klein is commissioned a set of Sponge reliefs and monumental monochrome panels.

    At the same time, he tries to go beyond a definition agreed on art: he shows empty spaces, his statements have art value. The "immaterial" that the artist "specializes" is subject to deals in exchange for gold, simultaneously noble metal and colour which then takes a singular place in his work.

    The public space (the illumination of the obelisk of the Place de la Concorde) and the media (Edition of Sunday, November 27th) appear, thanks to him, as so many new art territories.

    The power of natural elements become raw material for his Cosmogonies and his reflection on art brings him to imagine a new relationship with his models who become the “living brushes “of the Anthropometries.

    His collaboration with the architect Claude Parent on the project of the Architecture de l’Air will stand out.

    On October 27th, 1960, at his home, is signed the manifesto of the Nouveaux Réalistes.
    • 1958

      On February 13th 1958, Yves signs the contract to provide the decoration for the new Gelsenkirchen theatre. He is part of the international team which has won the competition, featuring the German Norbert Kricke and Paul Dierke and the British Robert Adams. Yves is entrusted to supply six monumental panels.

      On April 24th, and under the headline “The red picture” (“Das Rote Bild”), the seventh “single-evening exhibition” of European artists organised by Otto Piene and Heinz Mack in their Dusseldorf studios where Yves Klein exhibits a red plate (M 083). The first issue of the German magazine Zero is published, including Yves Klein’s contribution “My position in the fight between line and colour”.

      web_1958_1960M_083_01 Untitled Red Monochrome (M 83)
      © Yves Klein Estate, ADAGP, Paris, 2017

      On April 26th at 11:00 pm, in the presence of Yves and Iris Clert, EDF (Electricité de France) carries out a preliminary test to illuminate in blue the Concorde obelisk before the April 28th event takes place. Klein’s purpose is to complement the opening of his upcoming exhibition at Iris Clert’s scheduled for two days later by lighting up the monument.

      His private exhibition “The Specialization of Sensibility in the Raw Material State into Stabilized Pictorial Sensibility” at the Iris Clert Gallery, Paris. This exhibition is known as that of “The Void”, and referred to as the beginning of the “pneumatic era”. For this purpose, Yves designs an invitation featuring a text by Pierre Restany, an access voucher (i.e. those without it would have to pay 1,500 F), and a post-paid envelope bearing a blue stamp. Outside, the window of the Gallery is painted blue, and the entrance to the building features canopy covered in blue fabric. Inside the Gallery, presentation of “an atmosphere, of a sensitive pictorial vibe, and, for this reason, even concealed” (Yves Klein, Overcoming the problematics of art, 1959) ; the walls and window roadside have been painted in white by Yves Klein. The public is offered a blue cocktail. On the opening day, Republican Guards are at the entrance, and security has been organised. On the very day, lighting up the obelisk is forbidden by the Prefecture. The closing of the exhibition scheduled for May 5th is postponed for one week. A film explains the exhibition. After the opening, Yves delivers a fervent speech on the event and his new perspectives at La Coupole brasserie.

      1958_clert_1 Invitation for the exhibition “The Specialization of Sensibility in the Raw Material State into Stabilized Pictorial Sensibility” (The Void),  Galerie Iris Clert, Paris, 1958
      © Yves Klein Estate, ADAGP, Paris, 2017

      1958_clert_3

      1958_clert_4 View of exhibition “The Specialization of Sensibility in the Raw Material State into Stabilized Pictorial Sensibility” (The Void),  Galerie Iris Clert, Paris, 1958
      Photo © All rights reserved
      © Yves Klein Estate, ADAGP, Paris, 2017

      On June 5th 1958, Yves experiments for the first time, and in front of a selected audience, making a picture using a “living brush”. The word Anthropometry used to define these works will only be chosen by Pierre Restany two years later. This eventful evening took place at No. 9 rue le Regrattier, on the St-Louis Island in Paris in the flat of his friend Robert Godet, President of the International Judo Federation, publisher and contemporary art collector.  

      1958_godet_2 First experimentation of the "living brushes", Paris, 1958
      Photo © All rights reserved

      In June, Yves travels to Gelsenkirchen to show his models and drawings of Sponge Reliefs. On his way back, he visits the “Universal and International Exhibition” in Brussels.   

      During the Summer, he settles at No. 14 rue Campagne-Première. Following the rejection by the New Realities Salon of a work that Yves and Tinguely were considering to produce together (Meta-morphe on a monochrome frustration), both artists consider taking advantage of the area of the Salon by illuminating in blue works exhibited, which they call “Colonisation by the colour blue”. Both friends also decide to set up a joint exhibition at the Iris Clert Gallery.

      In September, Yves travels to Italy with his Aunt Rose. He visits Cascia in Italy, where he leaves an IKB Monochrome at the Sanctuary of Saint Rita, as a sign of gratitude for the Gelsenkirchen order.

      In October, he starts work of the Gelsenkirchen site where he produces his first Sponge Reliefs. He is assisted by Jean-Pierre Mirouze and Rotraut Uecker. He will stay several times in Gelsenkirchen until spring 1959.

      1958_opera_4
      web_1958_1960YK ph_0240

      web_1958_1960YK ph_1029

      web_1958_1960YK ph_1134
      Yves Klein at the Gelsenkirchen Opera and Theater, 1959
      Photo © Ilse Pässler

      On November 17th, opening of the “Yves Klein and Jean Tinguely, Pure Speed and Monochrome Stability” exhibition at the Iris Clert Gallery. The invitation takes the shape of a blue small monochrome disc. Both artists exhibit works they have produced jointly.

      EXP_0224_B Invitation for the exhibition “Yves Klein and Jean Tinguely, Pure speed and monochrome stability”
      © Yves Klein Estate, ADAGP, Paris, 2017

      1958_vitesse_1 Jean Tinguely and Yves Klein, Impasse Ronsin, 1959
      Photo © Martha Rocher

      © Succession Yves Klein, ADAGP, Paris, 2017

      © Jean Tinguely, ADAGP, Paris

      On November 22nd, Yves submits to the Gelsenkirchen Theatre Commission a speech translated by Konrad Klapheck and read by Werner Ruhnau, thanks to which his wish that blue is agreed as the unique colour for all his works is granted.
    • 1959

      Between January and May 1959, Yves works on the Gelsenkirchen site. After Rotraut has left, he benefits from the help provided by Tinguely as an interpreter. Later, Tinguely will also be involved in the décor of the theatre, having secured, in March 1959, an order for two mobile sculptures.

      On 30th January, at the opening of Jean Tinguely’s “Concert No. 2” exhibition at the Schmela Gallery in Dusseldorf, Yves delivers a speech about cooperation between artists. The event is also celebrated over three days in traditional costumes as a tribute to Tinguely and Klein in Gunther Uecker’s studio in Dusseldorf.   

      In March, he takes part in the “Vision in Motion-Motion in Vision” exhibition at the Hessenhuis in Antwerp, the first collective exhibition of the ZERO group. The exhibition commissioners are Pol Bury, Daniel Spoerri, Jean Tinguely and Paul van Hoeydonck. On the opening day, Yves delivers in the space made available to him a sentence in the words of Bachelard : “First there is nothing, then there is a deep nothing, then there is a blue depth”, and offers immaterial pictorial sensibility at the cost of one kilo of pure gold.  

      1959_hessenhuis_4 Dinner on the occasion of the exhibition "Vision in Motion-Motion in Vision" in the Hessenhuis, Antwerpen, on march 21st 1959. From left to right: Margret Mack, Heinz Mack, Otto Piene, Jean Tinguely, Daniel Spoerri, Pol Bury, Yves Klein ant the poet Emmett Williams
      Photo © Charles Wilp / BPK, Berlin

      On 27th March, Yves Klein and Werner Ruhnau sign a project for the creation of a Sensibility Centre (“Schule der Sensibilität”):  « Immaterial architecture will be the face of this school. It will be flooded with light. Twenty masters and three hundred students will work there with neither program of instruction nor examination jury » (Yves Klein, Overcoming the problematics of art, 1959).  

      On 14th April, Yves registers with the INPI (National Institute for Industrial Property) projects for an air roof, water and fire works and for a “levitating aluminium tube” in two Soleau envelopes (a Soleau envelope is evidence of the existence of a creation at a given date – translator’s note).   

      On 17th April, the “Mack’s radiant sculptures and paintings” exhibition opens at the Iris Clert Gallery. Yves drafts the introduction text, printed on the invitation, and proposes in the exhibition room the Monotone Symphony.

      Between May and June, he makes a new pilgrimage to Saint Rita in Cascia.

      29th May is the opening day for the “International cooperation between artists and architects towards the development of the Gelsenkirchen New Opera and Theatre” exhibition at the Iris Clert Gallery in Paris. Are displayed models by Ruhnau, Kricke, Tinguely, Dierkes, Adams and Klein.

      1959_international_3 Jean Tinguely, Yves Klein, Werner Ruhnau, René Brô, Iris Clert, Jesús-Rafael Soto, Galerie Iris Clert, Paris, may 1959
      Photo © Harry Shunk and Janos Kender / J.Paul Getty Trust. The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles
      © Yves Klein Estate, ADAGP, Paris, 2017

      On 3rd June, Yves delivers a lecture at the Sorbonne entitled “The evolution of art towards the immaterial”, introduced by Iris Clert, and followed, on 5th June, by a communication from Werner Ruhnau : “The development of plastic arts and architecture towards immaterialisation”. The initiative is sponsored by the German Embassy. The lecture on 3rd June was recorded.

      1959_international_2 Invitation for the "Lecture at the Sorbonne" by Yves Klein, 1959
      © Yves Klein Estate, ADAGP, Paris, 2017

      1959_sorbonne_2

      web_1958_1960YK ph_0283 Yves Klein during his Lecture at the Sorbonne, Paris, 3 juin 1959
      Photo © Harry Shunk and Janos Kender / J.Paul Getty Trust. The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles
      Photo © All rights reserved

      The “Bas Reliefs in a forest of sponges” exhibition is held between 15th and 30th June at the Iris Clert Gallery.

      1959_foret_4 View of the exhibition, "Bas-reliefs in a forest of sponges", Galerie Iris Clert, Paris, 1959
      © Yves Klein Estate, ADAGP, Paris, 2017
      Photo © Louis Peltier

      At the end of June, Yves meets the architect Claude Parent, who will work with him on several Air Architecture projects. Parent and his assistant Sorgologo produce the drawings.

      On 30th June, he registers with the INPI under a Soleau envelope the project of an aero-magnetic sculpture, an invention dated April 1959 by him. During the Summer, his relations with Iris Clert start to deteriorate.

      Yves finalises the project of voucher and counterfoil booklets for the transfer of Areas of immaterial pictorial sensitivity, which Iris Clert has printed. By the end of November, he finalises the “ritual” of such transfers.

      web_1958_1960IMMA_006 Receipt Book for the Zones of ​​Immaterial Pictorial Sensibility, (IMMA_006)
      © Yves Klein Estate, ADAGP, Paris, 2017




      On 18th November, Iris Clert sends out the receipt for the first sale of an Area of immaterial pictorial sensibility to Peppino Palzzoli, manager of the Gallery Blu in Milano. He had purchased an immaterial art work in August 1958, subject to a receipt being delivered, signed by Yves.  In December, Yves Klein organises the first transfers of an Area of immaterial pictorial sensibility, which he will renew with other people.

      1962_blankfort_9 Transfer to Michael Blankfort of a Zone of ​​Immaterial Pictorial Sensibility, Pont-au-Double, Paris, february 10th 1962
      Photo © Gian Carlo Botti
      © Yves Klein Estate, ADAGP, Paris, 2017

      Also in December, he publishes “Overcoming The Problematic of Art”, La Louvière, Montbliard publishing. 

      1959_depassement_1 Overcoming the problematics of art, La Louvière, Montbliard Publishing, 1959

      On 15th December, Yves attends the grand opening of the new Gelsenkirchen theatre.

      1959_opera_1

      web_1958_1960YK ph_5068 Gelsenkirchen Opera and Theater, december 1959
      Photo © Tous droits réservés

      1958_opera_13 Blue Monochrome, Gelsenkirchen Opera and Theater, 1999
      Photo © David Bordes
      © Yves Klein Estate, ADAGP, Paris, 2017

      web_1958_1960YK ph_1182 Sponge Relief and Blue Monochrome, Gelsenkirchen Opera and Theater, 1999
      Photo © David Bordes
      © Yves Klein Estate, ADAGP, Paris, 2017

      Mid-December, following a slow-down of his activity as judo teacher, he brings to an end his lessons at the American Students & Artists Center.

      During the year 1959, he is involved in the “Micro-Salon” at the Europe Gallery in Brussels, in various exhibitions such as “Dynamo 1” at the Renate Boukes Gallery in Wiesbaden, “Junge Maler der Gegenwart” at the Vienna Künstlerhaus, “Kunstsammler an Rhein und Ruhr : Malerei 1900-1959” at the Städtisches Museum in Leverkusen, “Work in Three Dimensions” at the Leo Castelli Gallery in New York and the 1st Biennale de Paris at the Modern Art Museum in Paris, opened by André Malraux. 

      In Germany, Yves Klein and Jean-Pierre Mirouze create a Project for a ballet on a fugue and choral aspect. Yves will publish a description of the project in his newsletter Dimanche.
    • 1960

      On 12th January 1960, Yves practices what will become known as the Leap Into the Void from a window of Colette Allendy’s house, 67 rue de l’Assomption, Paris, in the presence of Bernadette Allain.  

      He produces his first Monogolds, using fine gold in their composition, a material as precious as emblematic.

      On 23rd February, at his home, Yves makes the imprints of Rotraut and Jacqueline who transfer the blue traces of their bodies on a large sheet of white paper, in the presence of Pierre Restany. The attendants name the work Celebrating a new Anthropometric Era. With the marks appearing on the support, Klein wants to fix in their transience the marks of the “status moments of the flesh”.

      web_1958_1960YK ph_0465 Yves Klein realizing an Anthropometry in his studio 14 rue Campagne-Première, Paris, 1960
      Photo © Harry Shunk and Janos Kender / J.Paul Getty Trust. The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles
      © Yves Klein Estate, ADAGP, Paris, 2017

      web_1958_1960YK ph_0438 Yves Klein realizing an Anthropometry in his studio 14 rue Campagne-Première, Paris, 1960 Photo © Harry Shunk and Janos Kender / J.Paul Getty Trust. The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles
      © Yves Klein Estate, ADAGP, Paris, 2017

      On 2nd March, he registers with the INPI a patent for invention entitled : “Architectural decoration or integration process and products resulting from the said process”, where the principle of “living brushes” is explained in details.

      On 9th March, Yves performs Anthropometries in the Blue Era in front of a selected audience gathered at the Contemporary Art International Gallery at 253 Rue Saint-Honoré in Paris, and managed by Count Maurice d’Arquan. The session opens on the Monotone-Silence Symphony, conducted by Yves and performed by three violins, three cellos and three choristers. Three naked models come on stage and make imprints of their bodies under the artist’s supervision. After the session, a general debate is held, with the assistance of Pierre Restany and Georges Mathieu.


      1960_anthropo2_8 Blue Period Anthropometries, Galerie Internationale d’Art Contemporain, Paris march 9th 1960
      Photo © Harry Shunk and Janos Kender / J.Paul Getty Trust. The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles
      © Yves Klein Estate, ADAGP, Paris, 2017


      web_1958_1960YK ph_0382_Web_2017 Blue Period Anthropometries, Galerie Internationale d’Art Contemporain, Paris march 9th 1960
      Photo © Harry Shunk and Janos Kender / J.Paul Getty Trust. The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles
      © Yves Klein Estate, ADAGP, Paris, 2017

      web_1958_1960YK ph_0326 Blue Period Anthropometries, Galerie Internationale d’Art Contemporain, Paris march 9th 1960
      Photo © Harry Shunk and Janos Kender / J.Paul Getty Trust. The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles
      © Yves Klein Estate, ADAGP, Paris, 2017

      web_1958_1960YK ph_0384 Blue Period Anthropometries, Galerie Internationale d’Art Contemporain, Paris march 9th 1960
      Photo © Agence Dalmas
      © Yves Klein Estate, ADAGP, Paris, 2017

      In March, Yves produces his first Cosmogonies, works using atmospheric phenomena and natural components. On the occasion of a trip from Paris to Nice, he fitted on the roof of his car a sheet of paper freshly painted in blue and leaves it to the meteorological elements to act on it. On 23rd March, at the mouth of the river Loup, he uses plant product imprints and the river water in which he dips some of the works. 

      1960_cosmo_4 Yves Klein realizing a Cosmogony, bank of the river Loup
      Photo © Rotraut
      © Yves Klein Estate, ADAGP, Paris, 2017

      web_1958_1960YK ph_0491 Yves Klein realizing a Cosmogony, bank of the river Loup
      Photo © Rotraut
      © Yves Klein Estate, ADAGP, Paris, 2017

      On 16th April, Pierre Restany publishes in Milan a text entitled The New Realists in view of the collective exhibitions schedules at the Galleria Apollinaire in May. Critics will later refer to this text as the first manifesto of the movement.

      On 23rd April, Yves launches the ADAM (Association for exceeding Modern Art) at La Coupole. This session will remain the only one ever held by the association.

      On 29th April, Yves registers with the INPI an additional patent linked to the “living brushes” process.

      In May, he creates with Restany, Mirouze, Pascal and Arman the International Klein Bureau, allowing each member to realize and sign with his name IKB Monochromes.

      On 19th May, he registers with the INPI the formula for the International Klein Blue (IKB), the project of the Pneumatic Rocket, and treatment processes for printing paper using three Soleau envelopes. 

      From 11th October to 13th November is held the “Yves Klein the Monochrome” exhibition at the Rive Droite Gallery, Paris, and run by Jean Lacarde. It is the first time the colour triad is shown.


      1960_rivedroite_1 Poster of the exhibition “Yves Klein le Monochrome”, Galerie Rive Droite, Paris, 1960
      © Yves Klein Estate, ADAGP, Paris, 2017

      On 19th October, Yves jumps in the void at 3 Rue Gentil-Bernard in Fontenay-aux-Roses. Photographers Harry Shunk and John Kender film the Leap into the void, as well as edit the event which will be published on the following 27th November in the Dimanche newsletter under the headline “A man in space!”. Yves reckons that this event marks the end of his activity in judo.

      1960_saut_1 Leap into the void, 5, rue Gentil-Bernard, Fontenay-aux-Roses, october 1960 The title of this work of Yves Klein according to his newspaper "Sunday, November 27th, 1960", is: "A man in space! The painter of space throws himself into the void! ", 1960
      Photo © Harry Shunk and Janos Kender / J.Paul Getty Trust. The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles.
      © Yves Klein Estate, ADAGP, Paris, 2017

      27th October is the date the New Realists Group is formed, in Yves’ flat at 14 Rue Campagne-Première in Paris. The “Incorporation Act of the New Realists Group" is drafted by Pierre Restany, and signed by Arman, Dufrêne, Hains, Klein, Raysse, Restany, Spoerri, Tinguely and Villeglé. Cesar and Rotella were invited, but didn’t turn up. Later, Niki de Saint-Phalle, Gérard Deschamps and Christo join the group. The nine members sign the nine copies of the Incorporation agreement.   

      On 28th October, Klein gathers together Arman, Hains, Raysse, Restany and Tinguely in order to produce a collective Anthropometry shroud. By such gesture, Klein integrates the New Realists to his artwork.

      1960_declaration_1 Constitutive Declaration of New Realism, 1960
      © Yves Klein Estate, ADAGP, Paris, 2017
      © All rights reserved

      1960_declaration_2 Meeting for the signing of the "Constitutive Declaration of New Realism" in Yves Klein's apartment, 14 rue Campagne-Première, Paris, October 27, 1960
      Photo © Harry Shunk and Janos Kender / J.Paul Getty Trust. The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles.

      1960_declaration_3 Meeting for the signing of the "Constitutive Declaration of New Realism" in Yves Klein's apartment, 14 rue Campagne-Première, Paris, October 27, 1960
      Photo © Harry Shunk and Janos Kender / J.Paul Getty Trust. The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles.

      On 10th November, Yves performs the Collective Anthropometry of the New Realists, with Arman, Hains, Restany and Tinguely.

      From 16th November to 15th December, the third Festival of Avant-garde Art at the exhibition centre, Porte de Versailles in Paris. Both works by Klein, Ci-gît l’espace [Here Lies the Space] and The collective Anthropometry of the New Realists are damaged by vandalism. On Sunday 27th November, within the framework of theatre shows at the festival, Yves presents the Theatre of the Void, “an ultimate form of collective theatre that a Sunday is for everyone” (Yves Klein, Dimanche, 1960). On the same day, he supplies to a few newspaper stands in Paris copies of Dimanche,”le journal d’un seul jour”, and holds a press conference at the Rive Droite Gallery.

      1960_dimanche_1 Sunday, November 27, 1960 - The Journal of a single day, 1960 © Yves Klein Estate, ADAGP, Paris, 2017

      In 1960, Yves takes part in Milan to the “La nuova concezione artistica » at the Azimut Gallery, and “Arman, Hains, Dufrêne, Yves le Monochrome, Villeglé, Tinguely” at the Galleria Apollinaire. In Paris, he takes part in the “Antagonisms” exhibition at the Decorative Arts Museum and in “Tribute to Colette Allendy” at the Colette Allendy Gallery. Finally, he will also be involved in “Paris Obsessions” at the Staempfli Gallery in New-York and “Monochrome Malerei” at the Städtisches Museum Leverkusen.
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