For the 20 days leading up to the opening of Yves Klein: With the Void, Full Powers at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the staff decided to try an experiment in the realm of the internet, specifically through Flickr, Facebook, and Twitter. Their goal was to introduce different aspects of Klein’s prolific career and illustrate the range of his projects and the scope of what would be presented in the exhibition itself. They presented photos, video, audio, and written texts that let Klein himself explain his goals, process, artworks, and projects to the audience.
They have handed these carefully curated resources over to us to present during the run of our presentation of the exhibition, and specifically, during the run of École de Klein, a series of lectures, gallery talks, art labs, film screenings, and experimental moments which explore the spectrum of Klein’s curiosities, life, and work.
We’ll be posting all the lengthy written content on this blog post: texts, transcripts, etc. Updates will continue as “20 Days of Klein” goes on.
Radlodiffusion—Télévision Française: transcript of interview
A letter to President Eisenhower
A letter to the President of the International Conference for the Detection of Nuclear Explosions
A letter to the Secretary General of the International Geophysical Year
Yves Klein presents: Dimanche, 27 November 1960. The Newspaper of a Single Day.
Paris—New York: what does it mean today?
28 May 1957
Guest: Yves Klein
Music…. Intro… Announcer….etc…..
MD: Bonjour Frank and Bonjour Mesdames…. Today we want you to meet Yves Klein, a young French painter who has two extraordinary exhibitions taking place in Paris. The art critics (to say nothing of the public) have been startled by what Yves Klein calls his “Propositions Monochromes—in Blue Period.” Imagine paintings, tapestries, screens, in which the language of the painter is pure color only. In which the value of color is explored to its last degree. Yves, they say you’ve crashed the “form barrier” in abstract painting…
YK: (with a smile) They say a lot of things, Marjorie…
MD: They certainly do, and none of it boring. You’ve given movie news and TV a festival; you’ve given the critics a shot on the arm; and you’ve shocked the public into another dimension, whether they know it or not. Now tell us what the artist himself has to say about his Monochrome in Blue Period…
YK: Quite simply, I’ve been working in this medium since 1949. That is to say, ever since I felt that color could be a picture in itself, or the contemplation of color in and for itself.
MD: Could we say that in this electronic day, you speak in art through the vibration of color?
YK: That’s very well said, Marjorie. Yes, it’s a kind of bath in a cosmos of color.
MD: “Cosmic” is a good name for that deep, disturbing Blue Period of yours. Yves, I wish we could quote from all the critics… It’s truly a headline story. Some of them think you’re crazy, but they are unanimous (like Pierre Restany) in saying that you’ve created a revolution. The very art of that painting is challenged, etc.
YK: Maybe this is the challenge to do something new and different.
MD: Yves, as this broadcast goes to America, let me read what the New York Herald so conservatively says, and I quote… [New York Herald article]
YK: I find it very fair.
MD: How about the United States? Have they had time yet to react to your monochromes?
YK: Not really, but one was bought for the Frank Perls Gallery and when Mr. Stanley Marcus, from Dallas, Texas, was here, he bought one.
MD: Mr. Marcus, as you probably know, has a famous collection of master paintings.
YK: Yes, I know. He was most amusing about mine. The first time he came, he just laughed. The second time, he shook his head, smile, and went away. But the third time, he said, ‘I know I’m crazy, but it’s have it.’
MD: Have you heard from him since?
YK: I haven’t, but Iris Clert of the Clert Galleries had a letter from Mr. Marcus. Would you like to see it?
MD: May I read it?
YK: I don’t think he’d mind.
MD: “Dear Iris, My Yves Klein has proved to be one of the most sensational purchases I have ever made. I will be sending you lots of customers this summer…. Signed, Stanley Marcus.”
YK: As you can imagine, I am very pleased about that.
MD: You’ve had a number of exhibitions, Yves…
YK: Oh yes, many. Recently, I had an exhibition in Milan at the Galleria Apollinaire. This is where I tried out my “Blue Period” for the first time.
MD: What was the Italian reaction?
YK: Quite astonishing really. They bought everything I had. I was very pleased and so was the gallery.
MD: You haven’t always painted in this radiant blue flame?
YK: No, of course not. When I was in Tokyo, my monochromes were in grey or pink, and, you know, I believe it was the appreciation of the Japanese that gave me the courage to go on in this medium. Before that, I only painted for myself and my friends. You see, I was afraid the public would think I was “off my [rocker]”…
MD: (laughs) Yves, tell us about you…. How you became a painter and everything…
YK: Well, I grew up painting, Marjorie. My father is a well-known painter. My mother is a painter, too.
MD: So it was quite natural that you should be painter three. Yves, what took you to Japan?
YK: Judo, Marjorie.
YK: Yes, didn’t you know judo is my hobby? And Japan is the place to learn it.
MD: Are you still a judo enthusiast?
YK: Oh, yes. Always well be.
MD: You are the highest grade in judo in Europe, I believe? You have the black belt fourth DAN.
YK: And I have my own judo club here in Paris. Come over some time and see us at work, Marjorie.
MD: Providing you give me some easy lessons to use on negative people! What a perfect partnership…monochromes and judo… It’s wonderful.
YK: More wonderful than you think (with a laugh). As you know, there are vibrations around my monochromes that are not exactly color, so judo gives me that much needed poise…
MD: To serenely pass the critic’s barrier…. But who isn’t criticized when they do something revolutionary? If you’ve crashed the barrier of form and shape in painting, you’ve opened up a new world that stimulates the imagination with color vibration. You will of course go on developing color in and for itself?
YK: I have no other choice, Marjorie, since color and its vibration have chosen me.
MD: Thank you, Yves Klein. You and your work are an exciting experience. We’ll be going along with you even in judo….
Transcript of interview, in Yves Klein USA, trans. Constance Perrot and Chrisoula Petridis (Dilecta, 2009), 192–93.
“THE BLUE REVOLUTION”—
Movement aiming at the transformation
of the French People’s thinking and acting
In the sense of their duty to their Nation
and to all nations.
Address: GALERIE IRIS CLERT
3, rue des Beaux-Arts
Mr. President EISENHOWER
Dear President Eisenhower,
At this time when France is being torn by painful events, my party has delegated me to transmit the following propositions:
To institute in France a Cabinet of French citizens (temporarily appointed exclusively from members of our movement for 3 years), under the political and moral control of an International House of Representatives. This House will act uniquely as consulting body conceived in the spirit of the U.N.O. and will be composed of a representative of each nation recognized by the U.N.O.
The French National Assembly will be thus replaced by our particular U.N.O. The entire French government thus conceived will be under the U.N.O. authority with its headquarters in New York.
This solution seems to us most likely to resolve most of the contradictions of our domestic politics.
By this transformation of the governmental structure my party and I believe to set an example to the entire world of the grandeurs of the great French Revolution of 1789, which infused the universal ideal of “Liberty—Equality—Fraternity” necessitated in the past but still at this time as vital as ever. To these three virtues, along with the rights of man, must be added a fourth and final social imperative: “Duty.”
We hope that, Mr. President, you will duly consider these propositions.
Awaiting your answer, which I hope will be prompt, I beg of you to keep in strict confidence the contents of this letter. Further, I implore you to communicate to me, before I contact officially the U.N.O. our position and our intention to act, if we can count on your effect help.
I remain, Mr. President,
Excerpt from Letter to Eisenhower, May 20, 1958, in Overcoming the Problematics of Art: The Writings of Yves Klein, trans. Klaus Ottmann (Spring Publications, 2007), 25.
President of the International Conference for the Detection of Nuclear Explosions
Honorable President, Distinguished Delegates,
I take upon myself in complete humility, but also in full conscience of an artist, to present a proposition to the board of directors of your Conference with regard to atomic and thermonuclear explosions. This proposition is quite simple: to paint A- and H-bombs blue in such a manner that their eventual explosions should not be recognized by only those who have vested interests in concealing their existence or (which amounts to the same thing) revealing it for purely political purposes but by all who have the greatest interest in being the first to be informed of this type of disturbance, which I deem to say is all of my contemporaries. All I need is the position and the number of A-bombs and H-bombs and a remuneration, to be discussed, that ought, in any case, to cover:
—The price of colorants.
—My own artistic contribution (I will be responsible for the coloring—in blue—of all future nuclear explosions).
It is quite clear that we shall exclude cobalt blue as being notoriously radioactive and that we shall use only Klein Blue, which has earned me the celebrity of which you are undoubtedly aware.
Although I am fully occupied with my current work, notable with creating the ambiance of the great Gelsenkirchen Opera House, the humanitarian aspect of my proposal seems to me to have priority over any other considerations. Do not think, however, that I am among those who place art after matter. Quite to the contrary, its disintegration allows for the most spectacular monochrome realizations that humanity, and I dare say, the cosmos itself will have known.
In this double effect, I remain, distinguished sirs, your very devoted,
Cc: His Holiness the Dalai Lama; His Holiness the Pope Pius XII; President of the League of the Rights of Man; Director of the International Committee of Peace; Secretary General of the United Nations; Secretary General of UNESCO; President of the International Federal of Judo; Editor-in-Chief of the Christian Science Monitor; Bertrand Russell; Dr. Albert Schweitzer.
P.S. It is clear that not only the explosions but also the “fallouts” ought to be inalterably tinted in blue by my IKB procedure.
[Translation by Klaus Ottmann]
Mr. Secretary General,
Several luminaries have protested how various saltwater bodies were named: the Red Sea, the White Sea, the Black Sea, or the Yellow Sea, without one having been named the “Blue Sea.” I propose that you employ to advantage my expertise in perfectly monochrome blue matter. By means of remuneration that we can discuss (but one that must, of course, cover the cost of IKB (International Klein Blue) plankton—in my view the coloring agent best suited to this task—as well as my artistic contribution), I place myself entirely at the disposition of the I.G.Y. for the execution of this act of reparation.
P.S. There is no danger to the red fish.*
cc: Mr. Kropotkine, Academy of Sciences of the U. S. S. R., National Geophysical Institute; Commandant Cousteau; Mr. Paul E. Victor; Professor Picard; Mr. Alain Bombard; Mr. Robert J. Godet; Admiral Norry, Naval chief-of-staff (France); Admiral Furstord of the Sea, Admiral Commanding of the 6th US Fleet (off Beirut); and Geographical Magazine
Letter to the Secretary General of the International Geophysical Year, in Overcoming the Problematics of Art: The Writings of Yves Klein, trans. Klaus Ottmann, 27. [*a word play: in French, les poissons rouges also means goldfish.]
Read selections from “Dimanche” (English, PDF)
Yves Klein “Selections from Dimanche,” from Overcoming the Problematics of Art: The Writings of Yves Klein, trans. Klaus Ottmann (Spring Publications, 2007).
Paris—New York: what does it mean today?
It has been a long time since the School of Paris existed, at least as it had previously been defined:
—For me it was not yesterday, more like ten, twenty, fifty years ago
—It has also been a long time long that crude press campaigns and intrigues in the politics of art organized by some chauvinist New Yorkers were conducted against the School of Paris, which seem even more ridiculous now!
—New York is no longer a place for artist to live in, work, or derive inspiration, as it was during the last war and immediately afterwards; it is a now simply a place of transit, a station for artists to pass through.
Just as every artist who wants show his work must pass through Paris, be he American, Dutch, French or Japanese, he must now also pass through New York, but this does not mean that Paris is finished, that nothing happens there anymore, and that everything takes place now in New York. No, it means that today there is no longer a School of Paris and there is no longer a School of New York. There is a School of the Entire World!
Evidence, examples, are my friends: Tinguely, Arman, César, etc., and myself; we’ve been traveling around the world for the last two years with our exhibitions, which are as acclaimed in Paris and New York as in Los Angeles and Tokyo. I might even say that for me this race around the world started more than ten years ago, and it is only this year that I finally decided to pass through New York!
These chauvinistic New Yorkers, who set up this idiotic, made-up campaign against the School of Paris, are merely delaying and preventing artists from both sides of the Atlantic from meeting and collaborating spiritually without histories, without backward ideas—in a word, without prejudice.
In 1961, I returned from New York, where I spent two very pleasant, very friendly months, April and May. I am not going to dwell on my own exhibition at Castelli because only one part of my work, from the 1957 period, was shown. I did not immediately want to show all of my work, except perhaps to a few friends in private. All in all, the exhibition allowed me to get in touch with all the artists who interested me. That’s what I wanted.
I’ve found that I myself was misinformed; young New York artists were more interested in us as Europeans than I expected. Not to mention the generation that preceded us and is quite well-known everywhere. Obviously everyone knows Tinguely and César, but not at all the younger ones. Nobody knows Hains, Arman, Raysse, Spoerri, Dufrêne, Villeglé, Pierre, Fontana, etc.
On my end, I obviously know all the big names, Pollock, etc.
But among the young [artists], the only ones… [incomplete sentence]
New York had barely achieved international status in art when, delirious with pride, it orchestrated a crushing and contemptuous attack against the School of Paris. It is a little sly and quite heartless, but, truthfully, it could all just come down to envy.
–Yves Klein [Trans. Klaus Ottmann]