Lot 4
  • 4

Yves Klein

300,000 - 400,000 GBP
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  • Yves Klein
  • F98
  • charred pasteboard on wood panel, in artist's frame
  • 61 by 50cm.
  • 24 by 19 1/2 in.
  • Executed in 1961.


Galerie Tarica, Paris
Acquired directly from the above in 1961


Munich, Modern Art Museum, Sammlung Gunter Sachs, 1967
Leipzig, Museum der Bildenden Künste, Gunter Sachs, 2008, p. 230


Paul Wember, Yves Klein, Cologne 1969, p.132, no. F98, illustrated
Gunter Sachs, Mein Leben, Munich 2005, p. 410 illustrated


Colour: The colours in the catalogue are fairly accurate although the overall tonality is deeper and richer in the actual work with the pasteboard background tending more to a dark tan. Condition: This work is in very good condition. There is minor wear and some small losses in places around the protruding edges of the artists frame, notably to the centre of the left and top edges. As is visible in the catalogue illustration, there is a faint rub mark to the upper left corner; several tiny scratches towards the lower left corner and in places above the bottom edge. These would appear to be original to the works execution. There is no evidence of retouching when examined under ultraviolet light.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

In 1962 Gunter Sachs organised a poignant memorial for Yves Klein in his Paris apartment; set to a background of electronic music by Pierre Henry, co-writer of the Symphonie Monotone, Sachs' alongside fellow friends of the artist celebrated the legacy of his irrefutable genius. Much like the definitive corpus of fire paintings executed only one year previously, Klein's was a light that burned fast and bright; an artistic voice which had swiftly attained fiery sublimation through the redefinition of painting in the decades following the Second World War.

Constituting a lyrical exposition of atmospheric halos, Yves Klein's F 98 is superlative archetype of the artist's final aesthetic dialogue – that of pure fire as visual and physical arbiter of the Void. This corpus of work executed during 1961 with an industrial blowtorch, collectively encapsulates the most experimental and ultimate phase of Klein's exploration into the spiritual and intangible present beyond our phenomenological perception. With fire, Klein had arrived at a material that was immaterial and essential whilst representing life itself. Articulated in a delicate schema of candescent ellipses and roundels in F 98, the scorched trace of fire's alchemical potential bestows physical expression to a conceptual sensibility of the Void. Passing beyond his magnificent corpus of monochrome painting, by January 1961 Klein had conceived of fire the principle prima material that would truly call forth absolute artistic, and even social, freedom. Indeed, in a telling statement from 1959 Klein presciently declared: "my paintings are only the ashes of my art" (the artist cited in: Pierre Restany, Yves Klein: Fire at the Heart of the Void, Connecticut 2005, p. x). Igniting what would become the final legacy of Klein's artistic and philosophical genius, through fire he had found the "ultra-living element" which held the promise of light, life and, at the apogee of Klein's endeavour, the Immaterial (the artist cited in: Ibid., p. 3).

As the very apotheosis of Klein's Blue Revolution, the scheduled exhibitions at Iris Clert's and Collete Allendy's in Paris during May 1957 presented a truly panoramic sampling of the artist's "world in blue". However, at the crux of Klein's double event were two anticipatory manifestations of the Fire/Void dialectic: Klein's very first fire painting installed in an empty room. For the execution of this work, 16 rockets were arranged on a blue painted panel, and directed towards the sky; ignited in Colette Allendy's garden on the night of the opening, the rockets emitted a powerful blue incandescence that affirmed for Klein fire's immense potential as a vehicle of the Immaterial. Exhibited in the entirely bare room, Pierre Restany recalls: "The presentation of the first 'Immaterial'; a gallery room on the first floor is left entirely empty and Yves invites me to remain there alone with him in silence so as to witness the 'presence of pictorial sensibility reduced to raw matter'... Thus Fire rejoined with the Void through an ethereal and tangible, material/immaterial synthesis" (Ibid., p. 4).

Four years later, on 19th July 1961 Klein began work on his corpus of fire paintings at a research facility owned by the French government, located near Paris at the Centre d'Essais du Gaz de France in Saint-Denis. For two days the artist explored the possibilities of variously scorching card prepared with a chemical coating of magnesium and a cadmium-hydrate. This magnetized surface was highly resistant and could only be combusted using the experimental laboratories' giant coke gas burners capable of covering large areas. In F 98, the pure and concentrated application of the fire hose has engendered a landscape of floating oval halos, lessening in density from top to bottom. Lyrically fixing the unforgiving and unyielding force of fire, the atmospheric and diffused circular fiery language here radiates a truly cosmological allusion via a topography of burning sun-spots. Like moving shadows, the delicate and nuanced form of F 98 underlines transience yet fixes it into raw physical artifact. As expounded by the artist the very same year this work was created: "I made the flames lick the surface of the painting in such a way that it recorded the spontaneous traces of the fire. But what is it that provokes in me this pursuit of the impression of fire? Why must I search for its traces? Because every work of creation, quite apart from its cosmic position, is the representation of pure phenomenology – every phenomenon manifests itself of its own accord. This manifestation is always distinct from form, and is the essence of the immediate, the trace of the immediate" (the artist cited in: Exhibition Catalogue, London, Tate, Yves Klein, 1974, p. 67).

With his Fire Paintings Klein realised those invisible concepts that had obsessed him throughout his career and which he had previously pursued through the irrepressible allure of the monochrome and the alchemical mystery of gold. This realisation turned out to be the apogee of his spectacular and tragically brief career, as summed up by Restany: "Through the fire's flame, Yves Klein found his style's all-powerfulness, the immediate means to setting without other recourse or alterations the trace of his sensibility's momentary states... [the Fire Paintings] reflect the entire panorama of the monochrome artist's affective life" (Pierre Restany, Op. Cit., p. 47). Coinciding with the very first and only full-scale retrospective of Klein's career, and executed only a year prior to the artist's sudden death, Klein's work with fire offers his furthest most point, if not the actual attainment of a universal alchemical knowledge through a medium that was at once immaterial and essential: the progenitor of light and life itself.