signed on the reverse; signed and dated 59 on the overlap
pigment and synthetic resin on linen mounted on panel
92 by 73 cm.
36 1/4 by 28 3/4 in.
Executed in 1959.
Galleria Apollinaire, Milan
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner in 1961
Milan, Galleria Apollinaire, Yves Klein le Monochrome: Il Nuovo Realismo del Colore, 1961
Paul Wember, Yves Klein, Cologne 1969, p. 75, no. IKB 168
Yves Klein's quintessential IKB monochrome paintings, executed from 1956 until his untimely death in 1962, embody, more than any other aspect of his intelligent and provocative oeuvre, his unique artistic
vision. For Klein, in his celebrated pursuit of the Absolute, the colour blue appeared as an approach to an imminent, infinite reality; he wanted to transcend all intellectual and pictorial boundaries and attain an immaterial energy that was self-sufficient. Klein saw this colour as 'beyond dimension': he wrote in his L'Aventure Monochrome, "The blood of the body of sensibility is Blue. I have consecrated myself to finding the most perfect expression of Blue." (see Exhibition Catalogue, Houston, Rice Museum [and travelling], Yves Klein, 1928-1962: A Retrospective, 1982, p. 245).
Klein's Epoque Bleu was officially inaugurated in January 1957 at the Galleria Apollinaire in Milan. Here, eleven similiarly-sized and formatted IKB were exhibited together for the
very first time in the same room, and its effect, on both the public and fellow artists alike, was nothing short of revolutionary. Piero Manzoni and Lucio Fontana both attended the opening exhibition; Fontana even acquired a blue IKB. The present work was acquired from the Galleria Apollinaire when Klein held his second important exhibition there in November 1961, Il Nuovo Realismo del Colore, and has remained in the same collection ever since. It is one of the artist's most dazzling works: mystical, magical and mesmerising, the powdery, sensuous surface
remains as fresh today as the day it first hung in the Milanese gallery nearly forty years ago. The viewer cannot help but be drawn into its velvety, luscious ground that seems to surge up and slide away from the panel itself, becoming a tangible representation of infinite space; a window to a pure spiritual world.
The blue IKB were the result of a long search for a pure colour which, after lengthy experimentation, led the artist to the manipulation (and subsequent patenting) of an ultramarine pigment. The use of a single colour represents a significant shift from painting to colour in conceptual art. Holding universal associations with both the sky and the sea, the colour blue is imbued in Klein's thought with the highest form of spirituality; referring to it himself as a 'cosmic sensibility'. Klein's 'Blue Age' may, in art-historical terms, make an ironic reference to Picasso's 'Blue Period'. However, for Klein, ever the sincere artist, he was thinking in Rosicrucian terms. He firmly believed that an age would come when all matter would dissolve and humanity would return to a bodiless Eden of space as unadulterated spirit. Heindel, the Rosicrucianist philosopher who so influenced Klein, symbolised this utopia with the colour blue.
One may debate whether these sublime IKB represent the melting of form into a primordial matter, beyond human experience and understanding. One cannot, however, deny their art historical significance. In essence, Klein's IKB rejected the then canonical Art Informel by denying a subject-object dichotomy and forcing his viewer to participate in the creation of their meaning. Klein is often considered one of the first true Conceptual artists, confirmed by his 'sale' of invisible zones of pictorial immateriality in 1961 or his exhibition of, literally, nothing at the Museum Haus Lange, Krefeld, in the same year. Perhaps, the IKB can be seen as the first conceptual paintings, beginning a conceptual heritage that would, in turn, enable the work of artists as diverse as Manzoni, Ryman and Kawara to come to fruition, Klein's wonderful IKB remain his most important gesture, and IKB 168 one of his true masterpieces.