Yves Klein

Yves Klein was born in 1928, in Nice, France. From 1942 to 1946, he studied at the École Nationale de la Marine Marchande and at the École Nationale des Langues Orientales Vivantes. He began vocationally as a judoka, earning the highest honour in the martial art and spending fifteen months in Japan. It was only back in Paris, in 1954, that he dedicated himself fully to art, setting out on his 'adventure into monochrome'. Klein's hugely influential career lasted just seven years, before he died at the age of 34 in 1962. 


A leading figure of Nouveau Réalisme, Yves Klein developed a ground-breaking practice that broke down boundaries between conceptual art, sculpture, painting, and performance. 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, he moved beyond ideas of artistic representation. His practice revealed of new way of conceptualizing the role of the artist, conceiving his whole life as an artwork. Klein 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.  


Yves Klein's work is included in the public collection of the Guggenheim Museum, New York, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the San Francisco museum of Modern Art, San Francisco; the Städel Museum, Frankfurt; the Calderara Foundation Collection, Milan; the Museo di Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Trento; the Alazzo Forti, Verona; Reina Sofia National Museum, Madrid; Royal Academy of Arts, London; S.M.A.K (Stedelijk Museum Voor Actuele Kunst), Belgium; Tate Gallery, London; The Menil Collection, Texas; the Walker Art Center, Minnesota. The artist's work had been the subject of important retrospective exhibitions at: the Musée national d'Art Moderne, Paris, 1983; the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris 1983 and 2006; the Nice Modern and Contemporary Art Museum, Nice, 2000; the Luigi Pecci Contemporary Art Museum of Prato, Italy, 2000.

Photo © Harry Shunk and Janos Kender J.Paul Getty Trust.