YVES KLEIN (1928-1962)
YVES KLEIN (1928-1962)
YVES KLEIN (1928-1962)
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YVES KLEIN (1928-1962)
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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more
YVES KLEIN (1928-1962)

Sculpture éponge bleue sans titre (SE 328)

YVES KLEIN (1928-1962)
Sculpture éponge bleue sans titre (SE 328)
dry pigment and synthetic resin on natural sponge, metal rod and stone base
sculpture: 13 3/4 x 11 x 4 3/4in. (35 x 28 x 12cm.)
base: 4 1/4 x 7 x 7 1/8in. (10.8 x 17.8 x 18cm.)
overall: 18 x 11 3/8 x 7 1/8in. (45.8 x 29cm x 18cm.)
Executed circa 1959
Collection of Hanns Hülsberg, Hagen.
Private Collection, Germany.
Anon. sale, Kunsthaus Lempertz Cologne, 17 June 2021, lot 11.
Private Collection, Europe.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
Yves Klein, exh. cat., Paris, Centre Georges Pompidou, Musée national d’art moderne, 1983 (studio view illustrated, p. 336).
H. Weitemeier, Yves Klein 1928-1962 International Klein Blue, Cologne 2001 (studio view illustrated, p. 45).
O. Berggruen, M. Hollein, I. Pfeiffer (eds.), Yves Klein, exh. cat., Frankfurt, Schirn Kunsthalle, 2004 (studio view illustrated, p. 98; installation view at Museum Haus Lange, Krefeld, illustrated p. 78).
Yves Klein: A Career Survey, exh. cat., New York, L&M Arts, 2005 (studio view illustrated, p. 26).
B. Corà and D. Moquay (eds.), Yves Klein, exh. cat., Lugano, Museo d’Arte della Città di Lugano, 2009 (studio view illustrated, pp. 150-151).
D. Horowitz (ed.), Yves Klein: With the Void, Full Powers, exh. cat., Washington, D.C., Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, 2010 (studio view illustrated, p. 143).
M. Koddenberg (ed.), Yves Klein: in/out studio, Dortmund 2016 (studio view illustrated, pp. 110-111).
V. Schmitz-Grucker, 'Yves Klein: In Search of Infinity', in La Gazette Drouot, 10 June 2021 (detail illustrated in colour).
Paris, Galerie Iris Clert, Bas-reliefs dans une forêt d'éponges, 1959.
Krefeld, Museum Haus Lange, Yves Klein: Monochrome und Feuer, 1961, no. 44.
Special notice
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent. This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice. Christie's has provided a minimum price guarantee and has a direct financial interest in this lot. Christie's has financed all or a part of such interest through a third party. Such third parties generally benefit financially if a guaranteed lot is sold. See the Important Notices in the Conditions of Sale for more information.

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Michelle McMullan
Michelle McMullan Head of Evening Sale

Lot Essay

Enigmatic and otherworldly, the present work is an important example of Yves Klein’s revolutionary Sculpture-Eponges (Sponge-Sculptures). Originally held in the collection of Dr. Hanns Hülsberg, it boasts significant exhibition history, having featured in the historic show Bas-reliefs dans une forêt d'éponges at Galerie Iris Clert, Paris shortly after its creation, as well as the major exhibition Yves Klein: Monochrome und Feuer at the Museum Haus Lange, Krefeld in 1961. Saturated with ‘International Klein Blue’ (IKB)—the artist’s signature pigment—Klein’s Sculpture-Eponges were conceived as counterparts to his blue monochromes, presenting ‘portraits’ of viewers whose minds had been impregnated with his extraordinary ultramarine tone. Visible in two iconic studio photographs from the period, the present work blooms organically like a rare coral or celestial flower, light dancing in and out of its craters, ridges and grooves. Its rugged stone base—unlike the metal supports used elsewhere in the series—serves to amplify its sense of natural wonder. In this, the work chimes eloquently with examples held in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York and the Moderna Museet, Stockholm.

Begun in 1957, Klein’s Sculpture-Eponges marked a critical stage in his engagement with IKB. Having grown up surrounded by the deep azure of the Mediterranean—where he had symbolically ‘signed’ the sky as his first artwork—he considered blue to be the most immaterial of all colours. It was a boundless, dimensionless hue, embodied in fire, water and the unearthly frescoes of Giotto. While working on his early series of IKB monochromes, Klein often used sponges to apply the pigment, relishing the uniform texture they produced on canvas. ‘One day I perceived the beauty of blue in the sponge’, he recalls; ‘this working tool all of a sudden became a primary medium for me. The sponge has that extraordinary capacity to absorb and become impregnated with whatever fluid, which was naturally very seductive to me. Thanks to the natural and living nature of sponges, I was able to make portraits to the readers of my monochromes, which, after having seen and travelled into the blue of my paintings, returned from them completely impregnated with sensibility, just as the sponges’ (Y. Klein, Overcoming the Problematics of Art: The Writings of Yves Klein, New York 2007, p. 22).

The present work’s exhibition history charts the unveiling of the series. Bas-reliefs dans une forêt d’éponges was conceived—quite literally—as a veritable forest of sponges, which were displayed alongside his monochrome paintings. The installation presented an immersive, otherworldly environment, resembling a natural landscape infused with the mysteries of the void. Monochrome und Feuer was similarly conceived as something of a total artwork, with the present work taking its place in a space dedicated solely to blue sponges and monochromes. ‘When one enters the first large space of the Museum Haus Lange in Krefeld, where Yves Klein is now exhibiting’, wrote the critic John Anthony Thwaites, ‘you think you are back on the Mediterranean … Everything is just blue … The impression of vastness is in the room, and with it, what G.K. Chesterton called “the terrible tidiness of the sea”. But already this first conceptual connection is no longer sufficient—because something ceremonial is added. Something for which the wonderful interior space of Mies van der Rohe is actually too real. One wants to extend it, to stretch out the blue series as far as the eye can see’ (J. A. Thwaites, quoted in Yves Klein Monochrome und Feuer, Ein Dokument der Avantgarde, exh. cat. Museum Haus Lange and Haus Esters, Krefeld 1994, p. 16).

Though conversant with the works of Lucio Fontana and other artists of the Space Age, Klein’s conception of blue was ultimately grounded in spiritual, metaphysical ideals. His expansion of IKB’s potential would come to be characterised as his ‘Blue Revolution’, giving rise to his Reliefs Eponges (Sponge Reliefs) and Reliefs Planétaires (Planetary Reliefs), as well as his Anthropométries, in which he used naked human bodies as vessels for his pigment. Unlike gold and madder rose—the two other components of his ‘holy chromatic trilogy’—IKB was able to absorb all visible light rays except the deepest blue. In the Sculpture-Eponges, this intense saturation invoked a dual sense of solidity and nothingness, the infinite, cosmic space of IKB colliding with the living, physical reality of the sponge. As the curator Kerry Brougher explains, ‘the zero degree of Klein’s blue monochromes gave way to an absorption into this world of the “other side”, a way of demonstrating the immaterial in something material, a means of bringing the invisible spiritual realm into the dominion of flesh’ (K. Brougher, ‘Involuntary Painting’, in Yves Klein: With the Void, Full Powers, exh. cat. Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D. C. 2010, p. 34). The present work stands as a powerful demonstration of this capability.

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