YVES KLEIN (1928-1962)
YVES KLEIN (1928-1962)
YVES KLEIN (1928-1962)
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YVES KLEIN (1928-1962)
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On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more Property from a Private American Collector
YVES KLEIN (1928-1962)

Untitled Monogold, (MG 21)

YVES KLEIN (1928-1962)
Untitled Monogold, (MG 21)
signed, titled and dated 'Yves Klein le monochrome 1961' (on the reverse)
gold leaf on wood panel
24 1⁄2 x 17 7⁄8 in. (62.2 x 45.4 cm.)
Executed in 1961.
The artist
Mrs. Alexander Kommel, New York
Sidney Janis Gallery, New York
Jurgen Pierburg, Germany, 1980
Galerie Hans Mayer, Düsseldorf
Private collection, Germany
Greenberg Van Doren Gallery, St. Louis
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 2009
P. Wember, Yves Klein, Cologne, 1969, p. 78.
New York, The Jewish Museum, Yves Klein, January-March 1967.
Houston, Rice Museum; Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art; New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Paris, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Yves Klein: 1928 - 1962, A Retrospective, February 1982-May 1983, p. 158, no. 41 (illustrated).
Paris, Centre Georges Pompidou, Yves Klein, March-May 1983.
New York, Sidney Janis Gallery, Monochrome Paintings and Sponge Reliefs by Yves Klein, April-May 1986.
Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo, Revolution: Art of the Sixties from Warhol to Beuys, September-December 1995.
Esslingen, Galerie der Stadt-Villa Merkel and Nice, Musée d'art moderne et d'art contemporain, ZERO et Paris. Et aujourd'hui, October 1997-June 1998.
Paris, Centre Georges Pompidou and Vienna, Museum moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien, Yves Klein - Corps, Couleur, immateriel, October 2006-February 2007, p. 89 (illustrated).
Dallas, The Warehouse, Geometries On and Off the Grid, Art from 1950 to the Present, February-June 2015, pp. 15, 81 and 367 (installation view illustrated).
Tate Liverpool and Brussels, Bozar Centre for Fine Arts, Yves Klein, October 2016-March 2017.
Special notice
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Emily Kaplan
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Lot Essay

Asumptuous painting, rich with metaphorical associations, Yves Klein’s Untitled monogold (MG 21) is the product of the artist’s ceaseless quest for capturing the spiritual essence of the immaterial. Klein had been intrigued by gold from a young age, having worked for a frame gilder as early as 1949. A decade later, he integrated the use of actual gold into his work in Zone of Immaterial Pictorial Sensibility, part of the transaction between the artist and patron. An ancient material long revered for its spiritual qualities, gold had also fascinated the ancient mystics in their study of alchemy, a tradition which Klein would embrace in his own work. His first Monogolds were created in early 1960, using fine gold leaf in their composition. Thus gold entered into the holy trinity of Klein’s color repertoire, along with his International Klein Blue and pink, gold now symbolized the ability of an element to cross the boundary between the “material” and the “immaterial” worlds.

Compared to the number of blue monochromes in his oeuvre, Klein’s gold paintings are much rare, due in part to the sheer cost of the materials required to make them. In Untitled monogold (MG 21), layers of delicate gold leaf have been nimbly applied to the surface, so that the painting glows with a glorious sheen, as the ambient light gently plays across its surface. Although the Monogolds were created in a series, no two paintings are exactly alike, as Klein teases out the individual qualities of each piece of gold leaf placed on the surface of the canvas. In Monogold (MG 21), he activates the placid surface of the gold leaf by arranging a variety of bubbling, organic forms that seem to be part of some underwater ecosystem. Like floating jellyfish or microscopic, single-celled organisms caught in rapid replication, the surface comes alive with a heavenly host of intricate and strangely beautiful forms. These circular orbs also poetically allude to the tossing of actual gold pieces into the Seine as part of the Zone of Immaterial Pictorial Sensibility.

A secular reliquary of sorts, the Monogolds hold within them Klein’s deeply held beliefs about the spiritual capability of his triumvirate of color (blue, gold, and pink) to transcend the everyday realm and move into the dominion of the immaterial, “All three live in one and the same state, each impregnated in the other, all being perfectly independent one from the other,” he explained (Y. Klein, quoted in S. Stich, Yves Klein, Ostfildern, 1994, p. 194). But it was gold that had a unique capability irrespective of the others, one that was capable of transforming the artwork itself from the “material” to the “immaterial,” and therefore acquired a kind of transcendent, immortal realm. Gold offered to Klein the promise of eternity.

Klein had been fascinated by the power of gold since he was a child. When he was in his early 20s, he worked in a frame shop with the job of gilding ornate frames with small pieces of gold leaf. “Klein had learned the technique of gilding in London in 1949, and was awed by the potentials of this costly and difficult material,” the German art historian Hannah Weitemeier explained. “What especially fascinated him was the fragile nature of "the exquisite, delicate gold, whose leaves flew away at the slightest breath’” (H. Weitemeier in Yves Klein 1928-1962 International Klein Blue, Cologne, 2001, p. 69).

In 1959, Klein incorporated actual gold pieces as payment for one of his most radical works. Known as the Zone of Immaterial Pictorial Sensibility, the artwork was essentially a performative transaction between the artist and his patron, with about half of the gold pieces intended to be thrown away by being tossed into the river Seine. This groundbreaking work in the history of art is one of the first truly Conceptual gestures. One of Klein’s first clients, Michael Blankfort, recalls the exchange, having met Klein at the Dwan Gallery in 1961:

"First I had to buy 160 grams of pure gold in sixteen ingots. Then it was arranged for us to meet at the Seine near the Pont Neuf at eleven o'clock in the morning … Klein directed me to take half the ingots from the box which held them. I was tense, my body taut. The eight ingots seemed very heavy in my hand. I looked at Klein, his face was young and his neatly combed hair was only slightly touched by the breeze ... 'Now,' Klein said in a low voice. 'Throw the gold pieces into the river' … Slowly my hand lifted itself high in order to reach the Seine some yards away, and in a surge of ecstasy I threw the gold pieces towards the river. I followed the course of their rise, shining in the sun and then disappearing with modest splashes in the water. I felt purged, it was as if I had flown with them, leaving behind the baggage of daily living ... I've had no other experience in art equal to the depth of feeling of this one. It evoked in me a shock of self-recognition and an explosion of awareness of time and space" (M. Blankfort, quoted in Yves Klein USA, Paris, 2009, p. 181).

Indeed, with its deep, mystical connotations and rich, ancient history, gold has proven to be the symbolic material that best suited Klein’s deeply held spiritual belief, as he searched to create a new kind of artwork that transformed itself from mere “material” into something entirely spiritual, part of the vast, unknowable void. The beautiful, glittering gold surface of Untitled monogold (MG 21) is a powerful, lingering relic of this epic quest, a profound link to the artist’s brief but brilliant career.

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