1961 - 1962

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.
  • 1961 - 1962

    The construction of the myth

    Radical artist, Klein is a model for the European artists of the group Zero. In October 1960, he exhibits at Galerie Rive Droite in Paris, Leo Castelli in New York, and Dwan Gallery in Los Angeles in 1961.

    In January, 1961, the Museum Haus Lange in Krefeld proposes the first institutional retrospective of his work.

    In March and July 1961, Yves Klein produces his Fire paintings at the Gaz de France test centre. Never hesitating to use his image and his private life as material for his art, Yves Klein participates in the construction of his myth.

    His collaboration with many photographers and directors testifies to this. As he undertakes the Relief portraits of his friends Arman, Claude Pascal and Martial Raysse, he dies from a heart attack on June 6th, 1962, at the age of 34.

    Besides an exceptional work, he leaves far-sighted writings that will guide the visitor of this exhibition.
    • 1961

      On 5th January, Yves registers with the INPI a patent for a model “of glass table supported by chrome or nickel coated legs".

      1961_krefeld_7 Yves Klein in the empty room devoted to "Immaterial Pictorial Sensibility", Museum Haus Lange, Krefeld, January 1961
      Photo © Charles Wilp / BPK, Berlin
      © Yves Klein Estate, ADAGP, Paris, 2017

      From 14th January to 26th February is held the first institutional retrospective “Yves Klein: Monochrome und Feuer” at the Haus Lange Museum in Krefeld. The retrospective is organised in close cooperation between Yves and Paul Wember, the museum director. Yves Klein realizes there his most important retrospective. He exhibited blue, pink and gold monochromes, his Air Architecture project, the Empty room, an immaterial space that has since been part of the permanent collection of the museum. The Wall of Fire on the outside, is made up of 50 burners aligned. The lighting of the elements, in the dark, is spectacular. The rosettes in the form of daisies show, if approached, the decomposed colours of the flame: blue, gold and pink. Not far from the Wall is the flame of the Fire Sculpture. On February 26th, the closing date of the exhibition, Klein made the first Fire Paintings. A large sheet of paper or cardboard is offered to the flames of the Bunsen beaks, and bears the mark of the rosettes alone, or rosettes accompanied by the trace of The Fire Sculpture.

      1961_krefeld_13 Fire Wall and Fountain of Fire in the garden of the Museum Haus Lange, Krefeld, January 1961
      Photo © Bernward Wember
      © Yves Klein Estate, ADAGP, Paris, 2017
      web_1960_YK ph_1180 View of the exhibition "Monochrome und Feuer", Museum Haus Lange, Krefeld, January 1961
      Photo © All rights reserved
      © Yves Klein Estate, ADAGP, Paris, 2017

      web_1958_1960YK ph_1015 View of the exhibition "Monochrome und Feuer", Museum Haus Lange, Krefeld, January 1961
      Photo © All rights reserved
      © Yves Klein Estate, ADAGP, Paris, 2017

      In February, he returns on a pilgrimage to the Saint Rita Monastery in Cascia, and offers as an ex-voto a Plexiglas box divided into several files and into several compartments containing blue and pink pigments, gold sheets and bars and a handwritten prayer. This work was only discovered following an earthquake in September 1979, and authenticated by Pierre Restany in 1980.  

      1961_sterita Sister Andreina with the Ex-voto dedicated by Yves Klein to Santa Rita of Cascia, Cascia, Italy 1999 From the series "The Keepers"
      Photo © David Bordes
      © Yves Klein Estate, ADAGP, Paris, 2017

      On 20th February, a session of Anthropometries is filmed in Charles Wilp’s studio in Dusseldorf for the BBC “The Heartbeat of France”, broadcast on the following 14th June.

      In March, Yves carries out the first sessions of Fire Paintings at the Gaz de France testing Centre at La Plaine St Denis, near Paris.

      1961_feu_11 Yves Klein realizing a Fire Painting at the Gaz de France Test Center, Saint-Denis, France
      Photo © Louis Frédéric
      © Yves Klein Estate, ADAGP, Paris, 2017

      On 26th March, Yves and Roraut Uecker arrive in New-York. They settle at the Chelsea Hotel. During his stay, Yves meets many artists such as : Duchamp, Johns, Kline, de Kooning, Newman, Rauschenberg, Rothko and Rivers.

      The exhibition “Yves Klein le Monochrome” is held from April 11th to 29th at the Leo Castelli Gallery in New York.

      Yves writes The Chelsea Manifesto in English.

      On 17th May, he presents before representatives of the New-York art world his films on Anthropometry and on the Krefeld exhibition. Projection is made at the Advertising Agency Park Avenue of Foote, Cone and Belding. 

      The exhibition "A quarante degrés au-dessus de Dada" (Forty degrees above Dada) at the J Gallery in Paris runs from 17th May to 10th June. The New Realists exhibition organised by Pierre Restany takes place upon the opening of the Gallery belonging to Jeanine de Goldschmidt, his wife to be. The foreword to the catalogue written by Restany is regarded as the Group’s second manifesto. From the United States, in a letter sent to the critic, Yves expresses his disagreement with the text, in which he can see no link to Dada. 

      From 29th May to 24th June, Yves exhibits at the Dwan Gallery in Los Angeles (“Yves Klein, le Monochrome”), and uses the opportunity to show all his films.   

      1961_dawn_2 View of the exhibition "Yves Klein the Monochrome", Dwan Gallery, Los Angeles, 1961
      Photo © I. Serisawa
      © Yves Klein Estate, ADAGP, Paris, 2017

      By mid-June, Yves and Rotraut return to France. 

      On 5th June, the publication of issue No. 3 of the Zero magazine leads to the “Zero. Publication. Exhibition. Demonstration” event at the Schmela Gallery in Dusseldorf. Klein’s article, “What is real becomes reality”, is published in that issue, in French and in English. The end of the French text is burnt as requested by the artist. This issue also contains the “Project for an architecture of air” manifesto, published in German [“Projekt einer Luft-Architektur”].

      web_1958_1960LIV_0035 Review "ZERO n ° 3", edited by the ZERO group, Düsseldorf, 1961
      © ZERO Foundation, Düsseldorf

      On 12th July, Yves signs the contract for the film Mondo Cane by Gualtiero Jacopetti. 

      On 17th and 18th July, the cameraman Paolo Cavara films scenes from Anthropometries at the Rive Droite Gallery as a preparation for the film.

      On 18th and 19th July, Yves produces Fire Paintings and Colored Fire Paintings at the Gaz de France test centre. Photographers Pierre Joly, Vera Cardot and Louis Frédéric produce documentaries. On the 19th, the Centre manager bans the session because it shows naked models.

      On 27th July, Yves writes to the architect Philip Johnson about a project of water and fire fountains suggested by engineers for the International New-York Exhibition, and which he wrongly considers as an misappropriation of his ideas.

      During the Autumn, Yves produces Planetary Reliefs.

      1961_grenoble_3 Yves Klein realizing a Planetary Relief in his studio, 14 rue Campagne-Première, Paris, 1961
      Photo © Gilles Raysse

      On 8th October, Yves gathers in his flat members of the New Realism and the art critics Alain Jouffroy, Pierre Descargues and John Ahbery in order to assess the Group’s affiliation to Duchamp. This meeting is called “day of the neutral observers”. That very evening at La Coupole, Yves, Martial Raysse and Raymond Hains sign a declaration dissolving the New Realists Group. It remains however, this will prove to be temporary.    

      In November, Yves and Rotraut travel to Italy. The couple go to Cascia, then Rome in order to view the film by Jacopetti on the Anthropometry. The sequence, not yet highjacked, is to Yves’ total satisfaction.

      On 20th November opens the “Yves Klein le Monochrome : il Nuovo Realismo des Clore” at the Apollinaire Gallery in Milan.  

      1961_monochrome_2 Pierre Restany at the opening of the exhibition "Yves Klein the Monochrome: the Nuovo Realismo del Colore" at the Galleria Apollinaire, Milan, 1961
      Photo © All rights reserved

      During the year, Yves has recorded on tape the improvisation later called “Dialogue with myself”. The recording starts with the Monotone-Silence Symphony (1.15 mn), then Yves starts talking.

      He imagines with Claude Parent a project of water and fire fountains for the Warsaw Waterworks at the Trocadero in Paris.

      During 1961, he takes part in the Group Zero exhibitions “Gruppo 0 + 0” at the Galleria La Salita in Rome, “Datozero” at the Dato gallery in Frankfurt, “Zero” at Gallery A in Arnheim, as well as “Aktuelle Kunstverein, Bilder und Plastiken aus des Sammlung Dotremont”, at the Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen and at the Kunsthalle of Düsserldorf and “Moderne Malerei seit 1945 aus der Sammlung Dotremont” at the Kunsthalle in Basel. 

      With the New Realists, he takes part in the exhibitions “The New Realism" in Paris and New-York at the Rive Droite Gallery, "Exhibition of the New Realists" at the Samlaren Gallery in Stockholm, "first Festival of New Realism" at the Muratore Gallery in Nice.
    • 1962

      On Sunday 21st January, Yves and Rotraut are married at St Nicolas des Champs. The ceremony, staged by Yves to the smallest detail, includes the presence of Knights of the Order of Saint Sebastian in full gear. This is followed by a reception at La Coupole, extended by an evening in Larry River’s studio, Impasse Ronsin.  

      1962_mariage_8 Wedding of Yves Klein and Rotraut Uecker, Saint-Nicolas-des-Champs Church, Paris, January 21, 1962
      Photo © All rights reserved

      1962_mariage_1 Invitation for the wedding of Yves Klein and Rotraut Uecker, 1962
      © Yves Klein Estate, ADAGP, Paris, 2017

      On 26th January, Yves unhooks the pictures in a room of the Paris Contemporary Art Museum, then allocated to the XVIth Violet salon in order to create an Immaterial Pictorial Sensibility area. Unhanging is done with the help of Dufrêne, Villeglé and Niki de Saint-Phalle. The following March, and within the framework of the Comparisons Exhibition, the same room should accommodate works by the New Realists. Yves has Harry Shunk film the premises in order to complement the Comparisons Exhibition showing the room empty and then the room filled with works by the New Realists (temporarily borrowed from Gallery J for the purpose of the picture).

      In February, Yves prepares moulding of Arman, Martial Raysse and Claude Pascal in order to realize the Relief Portraits. On 1st March, Yves produces The Store-Poem in cooperation with Arman, Claude Pascal and Pierre Restany.

      1962_moulages_2 Realization of the Portrait-Relief of Martial Raysse, Yves Klein's studio, 14 rue Campagne-Première, Paris, 1962
      Photo © Harry Shunk and Janos Kender / J.Paul Getty Trust. The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles.

      In 1962, Yves takes part in the collective exhibitions “Zero, Schilders door de galerie gekogen » at the Ad Libitum Gallery in Antwerp, “Nieuwe Tendenzen” at the Orez Gallery in The Hague, “Zero" within the framework of “Forum 62” at the Centrum voor Kunstambachten in Gent, “Zero” at the Schindler Gallery in Bern and “Search for a New Realism” at the Schindler de Berne and “Search for a New Realism” at the Bonnier Gallery in Lausanne.

      On 7th March opens the “Antagonisms 2, the object” at the Decorative Arts Museum in Paris.

      From 12th March to 2nd April is held the Comparisons Salon at the Paris Contemporary Art Museum.

      In May, Yves visits the Cannes Film Festival. On the 12th, he attends the first showing of Mondo Cane by Gualtiero Jacopetti. The fact that his work is completely messed up hurts him terribly. The scene he was in had been cut, editing modified, the Monotone-silence Symphony replaced by a pop song. That evening, he has a first heart attack. 

      On 15th May, during a debate on the theme “Art and Industry” at the Decorative Arts Museum, Yves intervenes violently against industrials, and also has a go at Restany and Tinguely, present at the debate. Yves goes to the opening of the exhibition “Giving to see” at the Creuze Gallery, in which is displayed the Relief Portrait of Arman. He suffers a new heart attack  

      He plans the shooting of a film with Sacha Sosno called Blue-Blue for the following September.

      On 6th June at 6:00 pm, Yves dies from an ultimate heart attack at his home, 14 rue Campagne-Première.

      On 6th August, birth in Nice of Yves, the artist’s son.

      Yves Klein rests in the small cemetery of La Colle-sur-Loup (Alpes-Maritimes), alongside Marie and Rose Raymond.

      1962_portrait_3 Yves Klein, 1960 ca.
      Photo © Harry Shunk and Janos Kender / J.Paul Getty Trust. The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles.

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