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Venet Foundation marks the 90th anniversary of Yves Klein's birth with an exceptional summer show
Pure Pigment, Yves Klein. Installation view at the Venet Foundation, 2018 © Succession Yves Klein c/o ADAGP Paris, 2018. Photo © Venet Foundation.

LE MUY.- The Venet Foundation is celebrating its 5th anniversary and the 90th anniversary of Yves Klein’s birth with an exceptional summer show devoted to Yves Klein called Pure Pigment, a vast installation of pigments applied directly on the floor and covering 200 m2 of the Gallery in Le Muy (South of France)

The French artist Yves Klein is a central figure of Nouveau réalisme (New Realism). Born in Nice, he continues to be celebrated in his home town. During his short life (1928-1962), Klein created a number of emblematic artworks, including the blue monochromes; IKB (International Klein Blue), the colour for which he filed a patent; the ‘Anthropometries’; the ‘Fire Paintings’; the ‘Void’; and his ‘Monotone-Silence Symphony’. In 1957, while showing paintings at Iris Clert’s gallery, Klein simultaneously held a separate exhibition at Colette Allendy’s called Pigment pur (Pure Pigment), featuring an installation by the same name made up solely of ultramarine blue pigments. Displayed horizontally, the original work stretched out before viewers’ eyes and at their feet, although they were not allowed to walk on it. The piece anticipated by nearly ten years Carl Andre’s sculptures and invented a new paradigm, the flat work of art that extends horizontally in space. Klein saw this show as his first step towards moving beyond the problematics of art. Although reinstalled many times since, including at the Guggenheim in both New York and Bilbao, the Centre Pompidou, the Modern Art Museum in Fort Worth, the Hirshhorn Museum, and the Walker Art Center, this installation has never been displayed in anything like the dimensions that the Venet Foundation can devote to it.

YVES KLEIN Pure Pigment Colour truly in and of itself, 90 years from the birth of Yves Klein
In 2018, the Venet Foundation is taking part in the celebrations marking the 90th birthday of Yves Klein, probably the most influential French artist of the postwar period. Described by Otto Piene as the one person who ‘has been perhaps the real driving force that sparked a zero movement’, Klein was exhibited in the United States at Virginia Dwan’s gallery and developed important connections with Japan, Germany, the United States and Spain. A native of Nice, he continues to be celebrated in his home town.

During his short life (1928-1962), he created a number of emblematic works of art, including his famous blue monochromes, painted in an intense ultramarine that he would later call IKB (or International Klein Blue) and had patented in 1960; the ‘Anthropometries’; the ‘Fire Paintings’; the ‘Zones de sensibilité picturales immatérielles’, or Immaterial Pictorial Emotion Zones; the ‘Vide’ exhibition, or Void in 1958 at the Iris Clert Gallery; and the ‘MonotoneSilence Symphony’, dreamed up in 1947-1948 and consisting of a single note played for 20 minutes followed by 20 minutes of silence.

In May of 1957, Klein simultaneously mounted ‘Yves Klein: Propositions monochromes’ (Yves Klein: Monochrome Propositions) at two separate venues, the Iris Clert Gallery and the Colette Allendy Gallery. This marked the advent of the artist’s ‘Blue Epoch’.

At Iris Clert’s, Klein opted to show his blue monochromes. At Colette Allendy’s, he exhibited a group of works that heralded some of his future developments, i.e., sculptures, an environment, a folding screen covered in ultramarine blue, the first ‘Fire Painting’, the first ‘Immaterial’ piece, and an installation of pigments applied directly to the floor. The title of this last piece gave the exhibition its name.

‘Pure pigment, exhibited on the ground, became painting itself rather than a hung picture; the fixative medium being the most immaterial possible, in other words the force of attraction itself. It did not alter the pigment grains, as oil, glue, or even my own special fixative inevitably do. The only drawback with this, one naturally stands upright and gazes toward the horizon.’ – Yves Klein, ‘Notes on Certain Works Exhibited at the Colette Allendy Gallery’

The horizontal display of the piece, which stretched out before the eyes but could not be walked on by viewers, anticipated by nearly 10 years Carl Andre’s flat sculptures and invented a new paradigm, the flat work of art that extends over the floor space. The pure pigment, the very ingredient of ‘Klein blue’ greeted the eye like a landscape in a wild and untamed state, an expanse that generated a mineral energy. This show was an essential marker in Klein’s approach to ‘the undefinable’ that Delacroix speaks of in his diary as being the only true ‘VIRTUE OF THE PAINTING’. Klein regularly quotes Delacroix in his writings and this installation, this landscape running off into the distance, makes the rest of his work resonate to a great degree. ‘My monochrome propositions are the landscapes of freedom; I am an Impressionist and a disciple of Delacroix.’

The reference to Delacroix is no accident, moreover; it recalls the ‘quarrel’ that runs throughout the history of art between the ancients and the moderns, line and colour. Clearly Klein stood on the side of colour, which makes it possible ‘to attain the spiritual absolute’. In this installation, the pigment is not mixed, not crushed, not dulled by any fixative; it is ‘colour truly in and of itself’.

This installation has been reinstalled many times since, at the Guggenheim in New York in 1982; the Musée National d’Art Moderne, Pompidou Centre, in 1983; the Guggenheim in Bilbao in 2005; the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth in 2007; and the Hirschhorn Museum and the Walker Art Center in 2010. It has never been displayed though in anything like these dimensions, which push Klein’s horizon even further back. The installation takes up all of the floor space of the Venet Foundation’s new gallery, seemingly as far as the eye can see.

And as Matisse pointed out, ‘One square centimetre of blue isn’t as blue as one square metre of the same blue’, we can affirm today that 200 m2 of IKB are more IKB than one square metre of the same IKB.

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