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Rélief éponge bleu (RE 51)
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Yves Klein (1928-1962)\nRélief éponge bleu (RE 51)\nsigned and dated 'Yves Klein 59' (on the reverse)\ndry pigment in synthetic resin, natural sponges and pebbles on board\n40 3/8 x 41 3/8 x 3 7/8in. (103.5 x 105 x 10cm.)\nExecuted in 1959
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notes

'When working on my pictures in the studio, I sometimes used sponges. Naturally they turned blue very rapidly! [and] one day I noticed how beautiful the blue in the sponge was, and the tool immediately became a raw material. The extraordinary capacity of sponges to absorb everything fluid fascinated me. Thanks to the sponges I was going to be able to make portraits of the observers (lecteurs) of my monochromes, who, after having seen, after having voyaged in the blue of my pictures, return totally impregnated in sensibility, as are the sponges' (Y. Klein quoted in Yves Klein: A Retrospective, exh. cat., Houston 1982, p. 111)

'I seek to put the spectator in front of the fact that colour is an individual, a character, a personality. I solicit a receptivity from the observer placed before my works. This permits him to consider everything that effectively surrounds the monochrome painting. Thus he can impregnate himself with colour and colour impregnates itself in him. Thus, perhaps, he can enter into the world of colour.' (Y. Klein quoted in S. Stich, Yves Klein, Cologne, 1994, p. 66)

'Klein is the one who understands the problem of space with his blue dimension... He is really abstract, one of the artists who have done something important' (Lucio Fontana, quoted in T. Trini, 'The last interview given by Fontana', pp.34-36, W. Beeren & N. Serota (ed.), Lucio Fontana, exh. cat., Amsterdam 1988, p. 34).

INTRODUCTION

Relief éponge bleu (RE 51) is one of the very first of Yves Klein's sponge-reliefs. Rarely seen in public since it was first acquired in 1959, by friend and fellow pioneering explorer of the void, the Spatialist artist Lucio Fontana, it is a magnificent, large, resonant and imposing blue sponge-relief made at the very pinnacle of Klein's involvement with the medium. Comprising of a forty-inch square rectangle heavily laden with sponges and small stones in a way that both disrupts the geometry of its borders and the flat plane of its blue surface, it is a radiant, intriguing and distinctly three-dimensional entity, which belongs to a rare group of outstanding early reliefs that dominated Klein's defining exhibition of these works held at the Galerie Iris Clert in Paris in June 1959.

Entitled Bas-Reliefs dans une forêt d'éponges (Bas-Reliefs in a forest of sponges) Klein's exhibition at Iris Clert's was the last of a radical series of extraordinarily original shows and events held at this small gallery throughout the mid-1950s, in which Klein progressively widened and enlarged the domain of painting and its conceptual role in the function of art. Taking place in the midst of Klein's epic work on the creation of a vast monochrome blue interior for the Gelsenkirchen Opera House, for which he first devised the concept of the sponge-relief, it was Bas-Reliefs dans une forêt d'éponges that was to provide the definitive expression of the sponge in his oeuvre. Relief éponge bleu (RE 51) formed a centrepiece of Bas-Reliefs dans une forêt d'éponges, operating as the focal point behind Klein's carefully constructed 'forest of sponges' - the installation that he set at the heart of the exhibition.

As at Gelsenkirchen, but here on a more intimate and personal scale, Klein once again aimed to transform the entire exhibition space of the gallery into a complete environment. Invoking the notion of an entirely new nature, the exhibition at Iris Clert's was intended to open up the idea of Klein's 'blue monochrome adventure' to the whole world, creating a completely new landscape of 'the immaterial', and taking the form of an entire world populated by blue sponges.

Partially a landscape reminiscent of the seabed or the surface of another planet, and partially a sculptural object infused with Klein's trademark IKB pigment (the resonant ultramarine colour he used to indicate the pervasive presence of immaterial energy), Relief éponge bleu (RE 51) signifies within itself, the conceptual extension of his immaterial blue into a new spatial dimension. Indeed it signifies and anticipates Klein's later extension of his aesthetic into actions and the subsequent adoption of other living elements and beings also impregnated with 'immaterial' blue pigment in such works as his later Anthropometries and Cosmogonies.

Klein's aim with the main installation of sponges was to create an ambiguous spatial play of seemingly floating forms, functioning like spectators, and entering into a dialogue with the picture-like reliefs that aligned the walls and possibly, as an early sketch for the exhibition shows, the ceiling. Relief éponge bleu (RE 51) was set into the very centre of this seemingly dimensionless sponge-world. Its resonant square, blue format functioning somewhat like Kasimir Malevich's famous painting the Black Square at the 0.10 exhibition of 1915, as a kind of icon or cornerstone anchoring the floating forms all around it, and the implied multidimensional nature of the exhibition as a whole.

In Europe in the 1950s, Lucio Fontana and Yves Klein were the two artists most responsible for establishing this conceptual direction in art: the direction upon which much of the later Minimalist and Conceptual work of the late 1960s was subsequently built. Made very much within the context of the space age, it was in such works as Fontana's punctured canvases, infusing the picture plane with the infinity of space, and Klein's sponge-reliefs, that the traditional, two-dimensional realm of painting was first irrevocably opened up. As one of the first, great examples of Klein's pioneering series of sponge-reliefs, therefore, it is both fitting and significant that it was Fontana who first acquired Relief éponge bleu (RE 51) from Klein at this inaugural exhibition of these works.

BAS-RELIEFS DANS UNE FORT D PONGES

If Kleins decision to use sponges for the Gelsenkirchen project had been to mark the transformation of Kleins 'monochrome proposition away from easel painting into the site-specific realm of space and architecture, it was the 1959 exhibition Bas-Reliefs dans une fort d ponges at Iris Clerts, with its new human-scale sponge-reliefs and floating forest of sponges, that ultimately marked its development into a new mystical realm of nature, topography and imaginary landscape. Bas-Reliefs dans une fort d ponges was the first of Kleins shows to fully mark the unique extension of his painterly-orientated art into the personal space and wider dimension of the viewers life. Constructed with great care and preparation as a complete environment, Klein transformed Iris Clerts small gallery space into a bizarre otherworldly landscape making use of a complex white-washed brieze-block architecture to display his 'floating sponges on multiple levels of height and depth from the walls. As the title of this show suggests, the exhibition also deliberately threw into direct contrast the wall-hanging sponge-reliefs and the elevated sculptural 'personages of the single sponges. A variety of different shaped and sized sponges and reliefs seemingly grew upwards from the floor and outwards from the walls, establishing a dialogue with one another that was also deeply suggestive of a field or 'forest of spectators engaging in a strange, mystical, communicative and symbiotic relationship.

Relief ponge bleu (RE 51) was positioned at the very heart of the exhibition, elevated and also apparently distant, (given such a confined space), hanging on the wall behind Kleins carefully constructed forest of sponges. Both its size and its volume were ideally suited to the space into which it was set rendering it a perspectival focal point and kind of altarpiece at the apex of the magical installation.

Like other sponge-reliefs known to have been in this exhibition such as RE 2 and RE 19 (now in the Ludwig Museum, Cologne), Relief ponge bleu (RE 51) operates simultaneously on two levels. At the same time that it dramatically asserts its own vital and dynamic three-dimensional presence within real space and outwards beyond the bounds of the picture plan, it also reveals itself pictorially as a landscape - a rectangular segment of a distinctly other-dimensional, alternate and immaterial reality of blue.

THE BLUE SPONGE

The idea of infusing the mind of man with a profound and moving sense of the vast scale, infinite dimension and immaterial nature of the universe or the 'void', as he often chose to refer to it, was one that lay at the very heart of Klein's life and work. Combining the immaterial presence of the artist's radiant but featureless monochrome blue canvases with the unique and distinctive material presence of the natural sponge, Klein's sponge-reliefs are among the most important creations in his entire oeuvre. They form an elegant pictorial synthesis of his ideas and are also among the finest plastic expressions of his deeply Romantic and transcendental aesthetic.

For Klein, the sponge, an ancient, organic, ocean-dwelling creature physically indicative of both the wonder and the mystery of nature, was, when impregnated with the deeply resonant ultramarine blue that he had himself patented, the perfect symbol of the ability of man's brain - which the sponge also resembles - to absorb and perceive a sense of the immaterial reality of the void.

Colour is immaterial sensibility. It is a powerful but intangible element able to provoke strong emotion and sensation in the viewer. For Klein, the colour blue was preeminent, being the colour of the sky and the sea and therefore, a colour 'beyond dimensions'. In this respect it was the colour most indicative of the infinite and the void.

The sponge first suggested itself to Klein as a medium for his art when he began to use it as a means of distancing his hand, the act of painting and all concept of painterliness or 'peinture' from the creation of his monochromes. 'When working on my pictures in the studio,' he recalled, 'I sometimes used sponges. Naturally they turned blue very rapidly! [and] one day I noticed how beautiful the blue in the sponge was, and the tool immediately became a raw material. The extraordinary capacity of sponges to absorb everything fluid fascinated me. Thanks to the sponges I was going to be able to make portraits of the observers (lecteurs) of my monochromes, who, after having seen, after having voyaged in the blue of my pictures, return totally impregnated in sensibility, as are the sponges' (Y. quoted in Yves Klein: A Retrospective, exh. cat., Houston 1982, p. 111).

BAS-RELIEFS DANS UNE FORÊT D'ÉPONGES

If Klein's decision to use sponges for the Gelsenkirchen project had been to mark the transformation of Klein's 'monochrome proposition' away from easel painting into the site-specific realm of space and architecture, it was the 1959 exhibition Bas-Reliefs dans une forêt d'éponges at Iris Clert's, with its new human-scale sponge-reliefs and 'floating' forest of sponges, that ultimately marked its development into a new mystical realm of nature, topography and imaginary landscape.

Bas-Reliefs dans une forêt d'éponges was the first of Klein's shows to fully mark the unique extension of his painterly-orientated art into the personal space and wider dimension of the viewer's life. Constructed with great care and preparation as a complete environment, Klein transformed Iris Clert's small gallery space into a bizarre otherworldly landscape making use of a complex white-washed brieze-block architecture to display his 'floating' sponges on multiple levels of height and depth from the walls. As the title of this show suggests, the exhibition also deliberately threw into direct contrast the wall-hanging sponge-reliefs and the elevated sculptural 'personages' of the single sponges. A variety of different shaped and sized sponges and reliefs seemingly grew upwards from the floor and outwards from the walls, establishing a dialogue with one another that was also deeply suggestive of a field or 'forest' of spectators engaging in a strange, mystical, communicative and symbiotic relationship.

Relief éponge bleu was positioned at the very heart of the exhibition, elevated and also apparently distant, (given such a confined space), hanging on the wall behind Klein's carefully constructed 'forest of sponges'. Both its size and its volume were ideally suited to the space into which it was set rendering it a perspectival focal point and kind of altarpiece at the apex of the magical installation.

Like other sponge-reliefs known to have been in this exhibition such as Re 2 and Re 19 (now in the Ludwig Museum, Cologne), Relief éponge bleu operates simultaneously on two levels. At the same time that it dramatically asserts its own vital and dynamic three-dimensional presence within real space and outwards beyond the bounds of the picture plan, it also reveals itself pictorially as a landscape - a rectangular segment of a distinctly other-dimensional, alternate and 'immaterial' reality of blue.

YVES KLEIN AND LUCIO FONTANA

Relief éponge bleu (RE 51) is one of five works by Klein owned by Lucio Fontana. Fontana was to own one of each of Klein's most important series of works. In addition to Relief éponge bleu (RE 51) which he acquired directly from Klein at the opening of Bas-Reliefs dans une forêt d'éponges in June 1959, he owned an IKB monochrome, (IKB100), a monogold, (MG42), a sponge sculpture (Se20) (Fondazione Lucio Fontana), and an Anthropometry, (ANT 136), (Fondazione Lucio Fontana).

As mentioned above and as the most memorable photograph of Bas-Reliefs dans une forêt d'éponges attests, Relief éponge bleu (RE 51) was prominently positioned alone on a wall behind a dense collation of 'floating' sponges in a position where it asserted itself as one of the foremost and most iconic presences in the show. Fontana, in demonstrably buying this work from Klein, was knowingly acquiring one of the key components of the show. He and Klein were both friends and great admirers of each other's work. Both were believers in the ultimate triumph of the immaterial void over the material world and as such they recognised in each other a shared sense of purpose in their pioneering explorations of infinite space. 'Klein is the one who understands the problem of space with his blue dimension' Fontana declared in his last interview before his death in 1968. 'He is really abstract, one of the artists who have done something important.' (Lucio Fontana, quoted in T. Trini, 'The last interview given by Fontana', pp.34-36, W. Beeren & N. Serota (ed.), Lucio Fontana, exh. cat., Amsterdam 1988, p. 34).

title

Rélief éponge bleu (RE 51)

prelot

PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT EUROPEAN PRIVATE COLLECTION

signed

Signed and dated 'Yves Klein 59' (on the reverse)

creator

Yves Klein

postlot

This work is registered with the Yves Klein Archives, Paris under number RE 51.

keywords

Yves Klein , 1950s, Paintings, France, Post War

exhibited

Paris, Galerie Iris Clert, Bas-reliefs dans une forêt d'éponges, 1959.

Lissone, XV Premio Lissone internazionale di pittura, 1967.

Rome, Galleria l'Obelisco, Yves Klein, le monochrome, 1970, no. 7.

Milan, Palazzo Reale, Metamorfosi dell'oggetto, 1972, p. 4 (illustrated, unpaged).

Milan, Padiglione d'Arte Contemporanea, Azimuth & Azimuth. 1959: Castellani, Manzoni e..., 1984 (illustrated, p. 40).

Parma, Galleria d'Arte Niccoli, Un probabile umore dell'idea, 1989 (illustrated in colour, cover and p. 21).

Venice, XLV Esposizione Internazionale d'Arte. La Biennale di Venezia , 1993.

Milan, Fonte d'Abisso Arte, Nouveaux Réalistes anni'60: La memoria viva di Milano, 1997, no. 29 (illustrated in colour, p. 53).

department

POST-WAR & CONTEMPORARY ART

dimensions

40 3/8 x 41 3/8 x 3 7/8in. (103.5 x 105 x 10cm.)

literature

Yves Klein 1928-1962. A Retrospective, exh. cat., Houston, Rice Museum, 1982 (installation view, illustrated, p. 311).

Yves Klein, exh. cat., Paris, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, 1983 (installation view, illustrated, p. 347).

Yves Klein, exh. cat., Tokyo, The Museum of Modern Art, 1986 (installation view, illustrated, p. 122).

Ives Klein, exh. cat., Cologne, Museum Ludwig, 1994 (installation view, illustrated, p. 161).

Yves Klein. Long Live the Immaterial, exh. cat., Nice, Musée d'Art Moderne et d'Art Contemporain, 2000 (installation view, illustrated, p. 225).

Yves Klein, exh. cat., Frankfurt, Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, 2005 (installation view, illustrated, p. 220).

Yves Klein: A Career Survey, exh. cat., New York, L&M Arts, 2005 (installation view, illustrated, p. 98).

D. Riout, Yves Klein. L'aventure monochrome, Paris 2006 (installation view, illustrated, p. 49).

Yves Klein. Corps, couleur, immateriel, exh. cat., Paris, Musée national d'art moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, 2007 (installation view, illustrated, p. 296).

R. Klein-Moquay and R. Pincus-Witten, Yves Klein USA, Paris 2009 (installation view, illustrated, unpaged).

provenance

Galerie Iris Clert, Paris.

Lucio Fontana Collection, Milan.

Acquired from the above by the previous owner in 1959 and thence by descent to the present owner.

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.


*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.

*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.


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