Hue and cry
A new show at Blenheim Palace celebrates Yves Klein, the artist whose blue period lasted longer than most
Here’s hoping that the
Blenheim Art Foundation, which has arranged the forthcoming exhibition Yves Klein at Blenheim Palace, has chosen to show his 1958 work, “Le Vide”, which consisted of a white room with nothing in it but an empty cabinet. Not that the original Parisian audience seemed to mind, as a reported 3,000 people turned up on the opening night, some moved, as Klein reported in his diary, to “tremble or begin to cry”
(the blue cocktails served at the door might have also been a factor).
For even though the French artist, who died from a heart attack in 1962 at only 34, is famous mostly for the intense shade of blue he created — known as International Klein Blue, or IKB — it was by no means the only innovative move in his short but varied career. He also made a work of a single chord, sustained for 20 minutes, followed by 20 more minutes of silence. He made another by placing a canvas on the roof of his white Citroen, then hurtling down the motorway at 100kmh. He got married dressed as a Knight Templar. He earned a black belt at the oldest judo school in Japan.
The Blenheim show, however, will focus more on the tangible — and indeed the blue — featuring 50 artworks that include his sponge sculptures, made with the sponges he used to paint with saturated in IKB, and his “Venus Bleue”, a recreation of the “Venus de Milo” covered in, you guessed it. It will even include some of his “Anthropometry” paintings made using naked women instead of paintbrushes, though live recreations might be a bit of a stretch. But it’s worth remembering that the iconic blue pigment was, in fact, like the empty room with a cupboard, a pursuit of transcendence, the sublime, the void in which the artist is all but erased. Perhaps, as the works no doubt get Instagrammed and decontextualised to oblivion, Klein will get his wish.
Into the blue (from left): Yves Klein with his ‘Blue Sponge’ sculpture, Paris, 1960; Klein’s ‘Untitled Anthropometry (ANT 106)’, 1960