Lot 22. Yves Klein, Monochrome rose sans titre (MP 27), dry pigment and synthetic resin on canvas, laid on panel, 40 x 35 cm (15 3/4 x 13 3/4 in.). Executed circa 1960. Estimate £800,000 - 1,200,000. Image courtesy of Phillips.
This work is registered in the Yves Klein Archives under the number MP 27, and will be included in the new edition of the Catalogue Raisonné of the artist’s work being completed under the supervision of Madame Rotraut Klein-Moquay, Paris.
Provenance: Galerie Rive Droite, Paris
Galerie Bischofberger, Zurich
Acquired from the above by the present owner circa 1980.
Exhibited: Paris, Galerie Rive Droite, Yves Klein Le Monochrome, 11 October - 13 November 1960, no. 7
Paris, Centre Georges Pompidou, Musée National d'Art Moderne; Vienna, mumok Museum moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien, Yves Klein: Corps, couleur, immatérial, 5 October 2006 - 3 June 2007, p. 6 (illustrated)
Washington, D.C., Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden; Minneapolis, Walker Art Center, Yves Klein: With the Void, Full Powers, 20 May 2010 - 13 February 2011, p. 95 (illustrated).
Note: Created in 1960, Monochrome rose sans titre (MP 27) is one of Yves Klein’s ‘Monopink’ paintings, which formed part of the trinity of colours, alongside blue and gold, that became the foundation of his work. Of these three colours, the ‘Monopinks’ such as Monochrome rose sans titre (MP 27) are the rarest. They also feature a great variation, ranging widely in colour, size and texture: in the case of Monochrome rose sans titre (MP 27), the ‘rose’ of the title is more crimson, a rich tone with a beguiling, enticing sense of depth. In terms of texture, the surface has a pristine, uniform, velvety quality that itself marks it out from many of its peers. This adds to the impression that the picture, or rather the ‘pink,’ shimmers ethereally, eluding our focus. This work has been in the same private hands since its acquisition in the 1980s. It belonged to a formidable collection of works by Yves Klein which included sponge reliefs in all three of his trinity of colours, Le Rose du bleu (RE 27), Archisponge (RE 11), and Relief éponge or (RE 47 II), as well as a number of other masterpieces by the artist, not least his Peinture du feu couleur sans titre (FC 27). The rarity and quality of Monochrome rose sans titre (MP 27) are also reflected in the fact that it was in two important recent retrospectives of Klein's work; one of these began at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, while the other, held three years later at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington DC and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, was the first major survey of Klein’s work to take place in the United States in almost three decades.
Crucially, Monochrome rose sans titre (MP 27) featured in the very first exhibition in which Klein unveiled his trinity of the colours blue, gold and pink. It was on 11 October 1960 that the exhibition Yves Klein Le Monochrome opened with his customary fanfare at the Galerie Rive Droite at 23, rue Faubourg Saint-Honoré in Paris. This was Klein’s first show in Jean Larcade’s respected gallery, which had already established impressive contemporary credentials, not least by holding the first European one-man show of Jasper Johns’ work the previous year. As recorded in contemporary photographs, Klein’s opening was attended by a number of his contemporaries and friends. As well as some of his fellow Nouveaux Réalistes such as Jean Tinguely, other attendees included Leonor Fini and Lucio Fontana, the latter being a long-standing collector of Klein’s work. This was one of the great unifying moments in Klein’s career, when various conceptual strands coalesced to add new authority to his celebration of the Immaterial, a dimension of existence that surrounds and infuses everything. In Klein’s world view, it was the mystical, beautiful building block of existence itself.
Even before the galvanisation of the trinity of blue, gold and pink in his 1960 exhibition, Klein had created monochromes in these colours, deliberately purging the picture surface of any extraneous and distracting details, leaving a glowing plane in a single hue into which the viewer could become immersed. Monochrome rose sans titre (MP 27) was created at a moment of consolidation, when he applied a new rigour to these creations, limiting his palette to these three, which he considered to be substitutes for the colours visible in flames. Fire, after all, Klein had espoused as a medium as early as 1957. While this triumvirate of colours became crucial to Klein’s practice, he himself avoided linking them explicitly in his work—the only exceptions being the Ex Voto he privately dedicated to Saint Rita of Cascia the following year, and the Krefeld Triptych that was part of the "limited" edition of his exhibition catalogue in Krefeld, 1961. Instead, works in all three colours were presented together, autonomous yet part of the same unified vision. Even the well-known triptych of monochromes in the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek, was assembled after his death.
The notion of these colours forming a trinity functioned on a number of levels, not least spiritual, reflecting Klein’s fascination with the Immaterial. His use of blue allowed the viewer to perceive the Immaterial, especially through the almost glowing intensity of International Klein Blue, the colour he had patented earlier in 1960. Inspired in part by the sky in the Mediterranean, Klein felt that blue was the colour that allowed the Immaterial to become visible. Warm, reflective gold, meanwhile, was the material that allowed passage into the realm of the Immaterial; pink was flesh, blood, carnality. Of the place of ‘rose’ within the trinity, Klein’s friend, the art critic Pierre Restany, wrote,
‘Yves chooses madder rose… Having thus acquired the third element, Yves Klein, can, from now on, present the cosmological trilogy of personal transmutation of colours: ultramarine-blue IKB, gold, and pink… The transfer to monopink in the monochrome trilogy is revealing. Madder rose represents the Holy Spirit before the gold of the Father and the blue of the Son; gold for immateriality and blue for sensibility’ (Pierre Restany, Fire at the Heart of the Void, New York, 2005, pp. 24-26).
It was the Immaterial made flesh, a notion heightened by the lush texture of Monochrome rose sans titre (MP 27) in particular. Klein's use of pink in works such as this marked a development that was germane to the Anthropometries that he had been creating during the previous two years, where his models covered in paint, pressed themselves to a picture surface, becoming ‘living brushes’ (Yves Klein, quoted in Nan Rosenthal, 'Assisted Levitation: The Art of Yves Klein’, Yves Klein 1928-1962: A Retrospective, exh. cat., Houston, 1982, p. 124). This unification of body and blue allowed the models to bridge the materiality of their flesh and the Immaterial. This analogy helps explain the presence of Anthropometries hanging alongside works relating to the new trinity such as Monochrome rose sans titre (MP 27) at the exhibition held in 1960.
In his ‘Monopink’ works such as Monochrome rose sans titre (MP 27), Klein created works that matched the visual intensity of his IKB, on which he had worked with Edouard Adam, whose family owned an artists’ supply shop, to suspend ultramarine pigment in a chemical solution that allowed it to retain its original intensity. In fact, Klein had already experimented with pink and orange before creating IKB, emphasising its importance in his work. The technique used in this colour was created using a similar technique to IKB, allowing the colour to appear to glow, its plane dissolving under our scrutiny as viewers, absorbing us within what appears a shimmering portal.
There was a provocative, showman-like aspect to Klein’s work, and even in a picture featuring a single colour, such as Monochrome rose sans titre (MP 27), this was never far from the fore. Half a decade earlier in his career, he had submitted a monochrome painting to the Salon des réalités nouvelles in Paris. The picture was rejected on the basis that it was only one colour—he was told that he could submit it if he added at least a line of black, but refused, instead arranging for his friends to visit the exhibition, tutting and complaining conspicuously about his exclusion. Klein may not have been the first artist to explore the use of the monochrome, pre-empted by decades by Kasimir Malevich, yet he brought to it a new sensibility, harnessing colours such as IKB and crucially the pink that sings so eloquently here. There is a sheer presence to these works. The refusal to include any detail, to allow anything to detract from the pigment itself, reveals Klein’s single-mindedness. At the same time, the specific has been banished, leaving an emphasis on the universal, allowing Monochrome rose sans titre (MP 27) to appear almost identical to any objective viewer. There is little room for pitfalls of interpretation. Instead, we are led into this embrace of the pink, of the Immaterial.
Phillips. 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale, London Auction, 8 March 2018.