Sotheby's to offer receipt granting ownership of invisible work of art by Yves Klein

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Sotheby's to offer receipt granting ownership of invisible work of art by Yves Klein
“Zone de sensibilité picturale immatérielle”. Estimated at €300,000 – 500,000. Courtesy Sotheby's.

LONDON.- A receipt, granting ownership to an invisible work of art by the leading post-war French artist Yves Klein (1928-1962), is to be offered at Sotheby’s in Paris on 6 April with an estimate of €300,000-500,000.

Klein sold a small number of these zones of empty space (the “Zone de sensibilité picturale immatérielle”) in return for a weight of pure gold, between the first creation of the piece in 1959 to his death in 1962.

Today, fewer than a handful of receipts are believed have survived - not least because the artist offered the purchasers the option to participate in a piece of performative art, an elaborate ritual in which the buyer would burn the receipt, and Klein would throw half of the gold into the Seine. This final act was intended to rebalance the “natural order” that he had unbalanced through the sale of the space.

While some of the buyers would choose to accept Klein’s offer to ‘complete’ the work, Jacques Kugel, one of the most famed dealers of his time, who bought this receipt in 1959 opted to retain it instead. In these instances, Klein would keep the gold for use in his concurrent series of “Monogolds”, large scale works made of gold leaf.

A statement to challenge notions around the value of art and consumerism - indeed the receipt is even intended to look like a banker’s cheque book - Klein’s work has since resonated with many other artists, not least Maurizio Cattelan and his infamous Comedian banana, sold at Art Basel for $120,000.*

Over the years, the receipt has been displayed at London’s Hayward Gallery, Madrid’s Reina Sofia, Stockholm’s Moderna Musset and Paris’s Centre Georges Pompidou. Today, it is in the collection of art advisor and curator Loic Malle, who acquired it 35 years ago. His collection, which is being offered at Sotheby’s next month, focuses on the experience of art, and is centred on those artists represented by his mentor and visionary gallerist Virginia Dwan, who was closely associated with the conceptual movement.

The new owner will not become the custodian of this historic receipt, but also of Klein’s invisible work of art as well. In terms of its intangibility, this piece can be viewed as a precursor to digital art and NFTs, and so – for the first time – Sotheby’s Paris will accept crypto currency as payment on this lot.

Please click here to see the piece, and images of the performance are also here.

*this wasn’t the first time Klein explored ideas of empty space – the most famous example is Le Vide (The Void), an exhibition which took place the previous year (1958) in which paying visitors to his major exhibition at Galerie Iris Clert were unsuspectingly met with a completely white empty gallery. The show would go on to attract thousands of visitors.

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