Yves Klein – Anthropometry Performance (1960)
May 15, 2009
About Yves Klein
Yves Klein (28 April 1928 – 6 June 1962) was a French artist. Klein was born in Nice. Both his parents were painters. He lived in Japan for a time, becoming an expert in judo, before settling in Paris and beginning to exhibit his work there. Many of these early paintings were monochrome and in a variety of colours. By the late 1950s, Klein’s monochrome works were almost exclusively in a deep blue hue which he eventually patented as International Klein Blue (IKB). As well as conventionally made paintings, in a number of works Klein had naked female models covered in blue paint dragged across or laid upon canvases to make the image, using the models as brushes. Sometimes the creation of these paintings was turned into a kind of performance art – an event in 1960, for example, had an audience dressed in formal evening wear watching the models go about their task while an instrumental ensemble played Klein’s The Monotone Symphony, which consisted of a single sustained note. Klein also made sculptures in deep blue, and worked with fire, creating some sculptures using it, and setting fire to some of his canvases, thus making scorched holes in them. Klein is also well known for a photograph, Saut dans le Vide (Leap into the Void), which apparently shows him jumping off a wall, arms outstretched, towards the pavement. Klein is considered an important figure in post-war European neo-dadaism. He engaged in such provocations as “publishing” a chapbook containing only empty pages and selling empty spaces in exchange for gold which he then threw into the river Seine. Klein died in Paris of a heart attack.
Saut Dans Le Vide
The Monotone Symphony (1949, rec. March 9, 1960)
On a clear night in March at ten pm sharp a crowd of one hundred people, all dressed in black tie attire, came to the Galerie International d’Art Contemporain in Paris. The event was the first conceptual piece to be shown at this gallery by their new artist Mr. Yves Klein. The gallery was one of the finest in Paris.
Mr. Klein in a black dinner jacket proceeded to conduct a ten piece orchestra in his personal composition of The Monotone Symphony, which he had written in 1949. This symphony consisted of one note.
Three models appeared, all with very beautiful naked bodies. They were then conducted as was the full orchestra by Mr. Klein. The music began. The models then rolled themselves in the blue paint that had been placed on giant pieces of artist paper – the paper had been carefully placed on one side of the galleries’ wall and floor area – opposite the full orchestra. Everything was composed so breathtakingly beautifully. The spectacle was surely a metaphysical and spiritual event for all. This went on for twenty minutes. When the symphony stopped it was followed by a strict twenty minutes of silence, in which everyone in the room willingly froze themselves in their own private meditation space.
At the end of Yves’ piece everyone in the audience was fully aware they had been in the presence of a genius at work, the piece was a huge success! Mr. Klein triumphed. It would be his greatest moment in art history, a total success. The spectacle had unquestionable poetic beauty, and Mr. Kleins’ last words that night were, “THE MYTH IS IN ART”.
The phrase “body of art” aptly describes Yves Klein’s “Anthropometrie” series. Klein (1928 – 1962) employed female models as “living paintbrushes” for the paintings, which were named after the study of human body measurements. Clad only in the artist’s patented International Klein Blue paint, the models made imprints of their bodies on large sheets of paper. Klein often staged the creation of these works as elaborate spectacles for an audience, who imbibed blue cocktails and listened to a performance of his “Monotone Symphony,” a solitary note played for 20 minutes, followed by 20 minutes of silence. The prints are on the boundary between the figurative and the abstract, but instead of a dramatic expression of experiences they are simply expressive prints of bodies.