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Christie’s Press Release: SUPER DUPER INSIPID MEGA HYPE!!! & some art

April 5, 2012

Yves Klein (1928-1962), FC 1 (Fire-Color 1), dry pigment and synthetic resin on panel, Executed in 1962, Estimate: $30 – 40 million. Photograph courtesy Christie's.

With BIG FONTS and BOLD FACE TYPE Christe’s this morning announced they’d bagged Yves Klein’s FC 1 for their May 8 evening sale of Post-War and Contemporary Art.  The press release is topped by an image of the painting followed by this text (their emphasis, not mine):

FC 1 is the most important work by Yves Klein ever to be offered at auction. 

FC 1 is considered to be one of the most important Post War European works of art. 

FC 1 is poised to break the world record for the artist at auction. 

FC 1 was realized in 1962, the year of Klein’s untimely death at age 34, after a short 7 year career. 

Estimated $30-40 million, this work situates Klein within the elite circle of the most expensive Post-War artists. 

FC 1 combines each of the artist’s major strengths and philosophical ideas. All of the artist’s signature elements are included: fire, anthropometry, International Klein Blue, and pink pigment. 

Before we continue, could we have a citation or two for that second claim? Oh, never mind. The five page press announcement goes on to say:

Executed a few weeks before his premature death, at the age of 34, FC 1 is widely acclaimed as his ultimate masterpiece.

Again, citation(s) please. And:

With the creation of FC 1, Klein pushed the concept of the heroic artist to a new level.

Hmmm … would someone tell me what that last sentence/claim means? “Klein pushed the concept of the heroic artist to a new level”? Huh? What silliness … I, I …  Oh, never mind. And:

As an alchemist manipulating the highly volatile elements of gas and fire, Klein created a work that represents the epitome of what he called “dangerous paintings”, where Klein risked his life and the life of his models.


According to the press release, Klein hired two models to act as "brushes." Klein and "brushes" painting dangerously. Photograph courtesy Christie's.

This is the sort of announcement the NYTimes’ Carol Vogel likes to make in the Friday Arts section, so it was surprising to see Christie’s go solo (perhaps Ms. Vogel is not a Klein fan).

Now, about that “one of the most important Post War European works of art” claim above, the release does include several quotes; however, the authorities cited are a Christie’s employee/shill (one of their 520 “specialists”), a friend of Klein and one of his models:

“Yves Klein‟s FC 1 is to Europe what Pollock‟s NUMBER ONE is to America. It is the ultimate heroic work fusing all of the elements that Klein learnt to master over his short and intense career. FC1 perfectly embodies Klein‟s obsession with the irreconcilable concept of presence and absence, life and death; this painting took an enormous emotional and physical toll on the artist. FC1 was Klein‟s last, but perhaps most poignant feat as an artist, and is expected to break the record for any Post War European work of art.stated Loic Gouzer, International Specialist, Post-War and Contemporary Art. 

“This painting, which for me is his absolute masterpiece, came close to not existing. The session was over; he had exhausted all his strength and was sitting down wiping off his sweat and trying to resume his normal breathing. In the left-hand corner of the studio I pointed out a panel which Yves had forgotten. The fire had to be rekindled and the models watched, fascinated as we all were, as Yves completed this masterpiece, arguably the greatest of his career and I am convinced of the 20th Century. I felt guilty about this for years afterwards, I should have told him to stop. I felt responsible for what happened a few weeks later.” (Yves Klein died in June 1962 at the age of 34) wrote Rotraut Klein-Moquay in March 2012, in a personal account to Loic Gouzer 

“The feeling was even stronger when we worked at the „Gaz de France‟; the atelier was cold, huge, and draughty, bitter winter in Paris. The hard physical conditions in close contact with the primeval elements, fire and water, turned the experience into a veritable rite of passage. I feel that these experiences were somehow crucial in my development as someone involved in creation.” remembers Elena Palumbo-Mosca, Yves Klein’s favorite model. 

Come on!! This is the best you can muster? I don’t blame Gouzer, per se, he’s just doing his job.  This bit, however, is a good deal more insipid: “I felt guilty about this for years afterwards, I should have told him to stop. I felt responsible for what happened a few weeks later.” (Yves Klein died in June 1962 at the age of 34) wrote Rotraut Klein-Moquay.” 

Perhaps election year hyperbole and rampant truth adjustment (to be kind) has infected the press offices of the auction houses, but something a little less biased/fatuous is in order.   This brand of PR gives PR a really, really bad name and does a disservice to the client.

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