Yves Klein: Artist Portrait

Yves Klein

Born 1928. Died 1962.

Yves Klein Biography

Raised in France in an artistic milieu, Yves Klein expressed his artistic inclinations as a teenager. According to one narrative, at the beach in Nice with his childhood friends the poet Claude Pascal and the artist Arman Fernandez, the young Klein symbolically claimed the sky as his medium. This would serve as a backstory for Klein’s later development of his signature International Klein Blue, or IKB, a saturated hue that he used in many of his paintings, sculptures and performances and that he patented as his own in 1960.

Klein was a leading figure of Nouveau Réalisme, the movement created in 1960 by the art critic Pierre Restany that aspired to discover “new ways of perceiving the real.” For Klein, that dictum might be realized in a work such as Monotone-Silence Symphony, which he wrote in 1949 and that was performed in 1960 as a performance during which a 20-minute sustained chord was followed by 20 minutes of silence.
Perhaps his most famous works are his Monochromes, which he executed in a range of colors including orange, yellow, and pink, eventually focusing on IKB, the ultramarine pigment suspended in synthetic resin that he developed and manufactured. Klein believed the color embodied the essence of pure idea and appears throughout many of his paintings and sculptures.

The artist’s burgeoning career was cut short when he suffered a heart attack while at the Cannes Film Festival in May 1962 and died shortly afterward, at age 34. Despite the brevity of Klein’s career, his works have had lasting appeal and are in the collections of museums around the world, including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, the Centre Pompidou, Paris and the Kunsthaus Zurich. Works by Klein continue to perform well at auction. According to Sotheby’s Mei Moses, the average compound annual return for Yves Klein resold at auction between 2003 and 2017 was 13.4%. 93.3% of 60 such works increased in value.

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Museums with Works by Yves Klein

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Artist Image: © The Estate of Yves Klein / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris 2018 / Photograph by Dlefebure [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons