Born in 1928 in Nice, the child of two painters, Yves Klein might have seemed predestined to become an artist. In 1947, at the age of nineteen, he developed an intense interest in an unlikely combination of topics: Rosicrucianism (a theological doctrine built on esoteric truths of the ancient past, which, concealed from the average man, provide insight into nature, the physical universe and the spiritual realm) and judo. In 1949, he composed the Symphonie Monoton-Silence, which consists of twenty minutes of a single extended sound produced by an orchestra and a chorus, followed by twenty minutes of silence. After intensive training in Japan, upon his return to France in 1952 he published a book on judo and opened his own school.
Over the years, Klein had dabbled in painting, but only in 1955 did he begin to think seriously about becoming an artist. Refusing to play by the rules, he denounced both the academy and the avant-garde, proclaiming himself a revolutionary genius. In this regard, he was right. His career progressed with miraculous speed. By 1958, he had had solo shows in Milan, London, Düsseldorf and Paris, and was commissioned to create a series of huge murals for a new theater in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. Over the next two years, he began to make a new kind of picture, the 'anthropométry,' by covering models with paint and having them press their bodies against paper or canvas. He exhibited an empty gallery as an artwork. He invented another kind of conceptual art based on the sale of “zones of immaterial pictorial sensibility.” While painting his German murals, he became close to the artists of Group Zero in Düsseldorf, and in 1960 he helped found the Nouveaux Réalistes group in Paris.
In 1961, the Museum Haus Lange, in Krefeld, organized a retrospective of his work, where he exhibited sculptures made from jets of fire. He then proceeded to make a series of canvases “painted” with a flame-thrower. In the same year, he had exhibitions in New York, Los Angeles, Rome, and Milan. In January 1962 he married the artist Rotraut Uecker; their happy union was cut tragically short in June, when Klein suddenly died of a heart attack at the age of thirty-four.
A true giant of the post-war avant-garde, Yves Klein left behind an impressive body of work that broke new ground and blended traditional artistic mediums with performance and spiritual exploration. Dominique Lévy is honored to represent the Estate of Yves Klein in North America. Exhibitions of the artist at the gallery include Yves Klein: A Career Survey (2005) and Audible Presence: Lucio Fontana, Yves Klein, Cy Twombly (2013), which was accompanied by the first New York performance of Symphonie Monotone-Silence to a vast audience at the Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church in September 2013 to critical acclaim. At Independent Projects in November 2014, Dominique Lévy presented important works by Yves Klein, including Sculpture tactile, a work conceived in 1957 and exhibited for the first time at the fair.
Installation view of Audible Presence: Lucio Fontana, Yves Klein, Cy Twombly at Dominique Lévy in New York, 2013