Yves Klein

Salle 6

Visit MAMAC and discover on two floors and nearly 2,500 m², a selection of more than 200 works of art from the collection.
Every year MAMAC completely renews the top floor and offers new experiences in its key rooms dedicated to Niki de Saint Phalle, Yves Klein and the international POP.
The collection is on the move for the pleasure of exploration and new dialogues.

Yves Klein, ANT 84, 1960, collection MAMAC, Nice ; Monochrome bleu sans titre (IKB Godet), 1958, collection privée, en dépôt au MAMAC, Nice, Rocket pneumatique (maquette de Tallon-Technès), 1962, collection privée, en dépôt au MAMAC, Nice © Succession Yves Klein c/o Adagp, Paris ; Photo François Fernandez

The monochrome adventure

Born in 1928 in Nice, Yves Klein was first to become a judoka. In 1954, he definitely turned to art and started his « monochrome adventure ». He took on the ultramarine blue, to which he gave his name « IKB » (International Klein Blue). Then he embarked on the quest for the immaterial and realized performances with his «living brushes». Klein goes beyond all artistic representation accepting that beauty is present in the invisible state and that his mission as an artist is to seize it wherever it might be. His work goes through the limits of conceptual, corporeal art, and of the happening, and illustrates a diverstity of practices and forms that undeniably make Yves Klein one of the most innovative artists of his time. The second half of the XXth century has been deeply marked by Yves Klein’s creativity, through his monochromes, the pivotal event of the void, the use of the gold and of the pink among a trilogy of colors. He stamped his time on thanks also to his use of pure color soaked sponges, as well as the utilization of the fire as a paintbrush. Today his creativity still goes on influencing the new generations of artists and of researchers. Yves Klein died in 1962, aged 34, and left behind him a major intense work, but also audacious and infinite.

This room, unique around the world, has benefited from the support of the Archives Klein and of private collectors who generously put their works in deposit at MAMAC.

Pure pigment

It’s on the wall of a cellar owning to Arman’s family that Klein painted his firsts blue monochromes, around 1947-1948. In 1955, he met Tinguely, César, Raysse and Restany in Paris and showed at the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles, a new painting made of one single color, which was refused and caused a controversy. From 1956, the exhibitions of Monochromes succeeded one another.

He started his « Blue Period » in 1956 in choosing an already existing ultramarine blue, extremely saturated which is, according to Klein, « the most perfect expression of the blue color ». Klein is at the time fascinated by the ultramarine pure pigment, of an incomparable intensity. He shows for the first time the installation « pure pigments » at Colette Allendy’s in May 1957, attempting to show « color in itself »:

Pure Pigments – Pure pigment, exhibited on the ground, became painting itself rather than a hung picture; the fixative medium being the most immaterial possible, that is to say, it is a force of attraction that directed only toward itself . It did not alter the pigment grains, as inevitably does oil, glue, or even my own special fixative. The only trouble with this: one naturally stands upright and gazes toward the horizon. »

Yves Klein, « Remarques sur quelques œuvres exposées chez Colette Allendy », c. 1957
Yves Klein, Monochrome bleu Sans Titre (IKB Godet), 1958, collection privée, en dépôt au MAMAC, Nice, © Succession Yves Klein c/o Adagp, Paris ; Photo François Fernandez


On 28 April 1958, Yves Klein made a splash with the exhibition of the “Void” at Iris Clert gallery in Paris, where he showed an entirely empty gallery; the walls were painted in white by the artist, and the façade painted in blue. The first experience of the “living brushes” occurred at his friend’s, Robert Godet, on 5 June of the same year, in the île Saint-Louis, where a nude model placed her body covered with blue paint on a white sheet set on the ground. During this private session the model crawled on the sheet, systematically covering the surface according to Yves Klein’s directions. It is the first introduction of the body and of sensuality in his work.

The first Anthropometries (imprints and shrouds) were presented to the public at the international gallery of contemporary art in Paris in march 1960, in the course of a performance during which three feminine nude models covered with blue paint crawled and dragged on the ground covered with sheets for this occasion, or placed their body along the walls, according to Yves Klein’s directions, “conductor” in the music of the Symphonie Monoton-Silence. Anthropo- from the Greek anthropos, means human, and metrie, measure.
Klein asked them to coat only parts of their body: stomach, thighs and bust. This experience brings back to us the prehistoric Venus, symbols of life and of fertility.
The Anthropometries play an important part in Yves Klein’s work.

Yves Klein, ANT 155, 1960, collection privée, en dépôt au MAMAC, Nice ; ANT 84, 1960, collection MAMAC, Nice ; Yves Klein, ANT 174, 1960, collection privée, en dépôt au MAMAC, Nice, © Succession Yves Klein c/o Adagp, Paris


In the course of a travel in 1960, Yves Klein fixed a canvas on the roof of his car. At the end of the trip from Paris to Nice, the weather conditions effects on the paint revealed a premature wear. This experience of interaction between the paint and Nature manifestations, rain, wind… engendered a series of works called the “Cosmogonies”. Usually blue, the cosmogonies, like COS 24, can also be pink, mainly from the end of 1961. These are « global reports of the demonstrations of the vital energy reportages ». Klein said

“In the end it is an old dream of mankind and the imagination to pay with the elements of nature, to direct and to control their phenomena and mannifestations.”

Yves Klein, Note manuscrite

Fire paintings

Yves Klein made his first Fire painting in 1957 Colette Allendy gallery’s garden in Paris on the evening of the opening of the exhibition « Monochrome Propositions ». Other Fire paintings were realized by Yves Klein in the course of his retrospective at Haus Lange Museum in Krefeld (Germany) in 1961, onto sheets of paper he exposed to the flames of Bunsen burners. The Centre d’essais du Gaz de France in la plaine Saint-Denis, allowed him also to work on his first great series of Fire paintings and to improve it. By March 1961, Yves Klein used Swedish compressed cardboard, more resistant to combustion. Klein developed the process of combustion and then introduced the anthropometric print, thus saving the trace of presence through fire.

Yves Klein, F55, 1961, collection MAMAC, Nice ; Yves Klein, Monochrome jaune (M56), circa 1954-1955, collection privée, en dépôt au MAMAC, Nice ; Yves Klein, Monochrome rose sans titre (MP9), circa 1962, collection privée, en dépôt au MAMAC, Nice © Succession Yves Klein c/o Adagp, Paris ; Photo François Fernandez
Mur de feu, 1961-1990 : Grille métallique composée de 2 panneaux et 300 becs Bunsen
Yves Klein, Mur de feu, 1961-1990, collection Mamac, Nice, © Succession Yves Klein c/o Adagp, Paris (oeuvre restaurée en 2019 avec l’aide de Gaz de France)

Sponge sculptures

C’est en 1958 qu’Yves Klein prend pleinement conscience du potentiel sensible des éponges imprégnées de pigment bleu.

It’s in 1958 that Yves Klein became fully aware of the sensible potential of sponges impregnated with blue pigment. « While working on my paintings in the studio, I sometimes used sponges. Very quickly they obviously became blue! One day I noticed the beauty of the blue in the sponge; in an instant this working instrument became raw material for me. It is the sponge’s extraordinary capacity to be impregnated itself with anything fluid that attracted me. Thanks to the wild living material of sponges, I was going to be able to do the portraits of the beholders of my monochromes, who, after having seen them, after having traveled through the blue of my paintings, come back totally impregnated in sensibility, like sponges. »

Yves Klein, extract from “Remarques sur quelques œuvres exposées chez Colette Allendy”, 1957 ca.
Yves Klein, Sculpture Sans Titre (S11), Arbre, 1960, collection privée, en dépôt au MAMAC, Nice ; Yves Klein, Sculpture Sans Titre, 1960, © Succession Yves Klein c/o Adagp, Paris ; Photo François Fernandez
Yves Klein, Victoire de Samothrace (S9), 1962, collection MAMAC, Nice ; Yves Klein, Vénus bleue (La Vénus d’Alexandrie) (S41), 1962-1982, collection MAMAC, Nice ; Esclave de Michel-Ange (S20), 1962, collection privée, en dépôt au MAMAC, Nice, © Succession Yves Klein c/o Adagp, Paris ; Photo François Fernandez

Archives Yves Klein : www.yvesklein.com

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