Lot 22
  • 22

Yves Klein

450,000 - 650,000 GBP
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  • Yves Klein
  • Untitled Blue Sponge Sculpture, (SE 242)
  • dry pigment and synthetic resin on natural sponge
  • 18 by 17 by 9 cm. 7 1/8 by 6 3/4 by 3 1/2 in.
  • overall: 36 by 17 by 9 cm. 14 1/8 by 6 3/4 by 3 1/2 in.
  • Executed circa 1960.


Galerie Reckerman, Cologne

Private Collection, Europe

Sotheby’s, London, 8 February 2002, Lot 185

Gallery Delaive, Amsterdam

Acquired from the above by the present owner


Colour: The colour in the catalogue illustration is fairly accurate. Condition: Please refer to the department for a professional condition report.
"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

Yves Klein’s links to the Italian avant-garde are manifold and manifest. He enjoyed numerous close artistic relationships with the most important practitioners in the country and the influence and inspiration that his work provided is abundantly clear. The first ever exhibition of Klein’s famous IKB monochromes was in Italy at the Galleria Apollinaire in Milan: at the opening he met Lucio Fontana, who purchased a work and found the younger artist entirely captivating for his conceptual voracity and force of personality. It is no coincidence that, in the ensuing years, a number of Fontana’s celebrated tagli paintings were produced in an imitative shade of ultramarine. Klein also worked concurrently with Alberto Burri, who used unconventional materials to create works of violent beauty in an equitable manner to Klein: his burnt and torn works made from burlap sacking and melted plastic are equitable to Klein’s fire paintings in dramatic impact. 

Klein had first used sponges as a studio tool, where he favoured them for their massive absorption qualities. It was these same qualities that made them so superbly effective as artworks: "While working on my paintings in my studio, I sometimes used sponges. Evidently, they very quickly turned blue! One day I perceived the beauty of blue in the sponge; this working tool all of a sudden became a primary medium for me. The sponge has that extraordinary capacity to absorb and become impregnated with whatever fluid, which was naturally very seductive to me. Thanks to the natural and living matter of sponges, I was able to make portraits of the readers of my monochromes, which, after having seen and traveled into the blue of my paintings, returned from them completely impregnated with sensibility, just as the sponges" (Yves Klein, Overcoming the Problems of Art: The Writings of Yves Klein, Spring Publications, New York, 2007, p. 22).

The sponge sculptures had evolved from Klein’s Monochromes, as an exploration into nature and space. First presented in June 1959 at the Galerie Iris Clert in Paris during the exhibition Bas Relief dans une forêt d'éponges (Bas-relief in a Sponges Forest), Klein presented his lavishly saturated blue sponge sculptures – all of varying sizes, heights, shapes and textures – grouped together along the sides of a small room, transforming the space into a lush, crowded and mysterious environment, in an attempt to recreate the beauty and overgrowth of a natural woodland area.  Filling the gallery with an assortment of works passing resemblance to trees, lush vegetation, and even human figures, Klein created a dense forest of sponges.  Klein’s was forest intended to imply that "a process of natural growth and proliferation was taking place" and that these brilliantly blue flowers and trees were a natural phenomenon, growing in nature, and evolving and multiplying as Klein continued to create hundreds of variations of these sculptures (Sidra Stich, Yves Klein, Ostfildern 1994, p. 165).  The forest was intended to emphasize an allusion to nature, and highlight the differences which can be found in a seemingly similar object – Klein's aim with these sponge sculptures was, like his earlier monochromes, to emphasize that no two things on the planet are identical despite their apparent similarities – insisting that the individual value of each work resides in the creativity instilled in it, and holds an inherent sensibility or aura which is immaterially present and irreproducible.  The present work is exemplar of this series, featuring all of the vibrancy and immediacy that has made Klein's sponge sculptures such a universally accepted icon of contemporary art.