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'IKB 79' was one of nearly 200 blue monochrome paintings Yves Klein made during his short life. He began making monochromes in 1947, considering them to be a way of rejecting the idea of representation in painting and therefore of attaining creative freedom. Although it is difficult to date many of these works precisely, the early ones have an uneven surface, whereas later ones, such as the present work, are finer and more uniform in texture. Klein did not give titles to these works but after his death in 1962, his widow Rotraut Klein-Moquay numbered all the known blue monochromes IKB 1 to IKB 194, a sequence which did not reflect their chronological order. Since then further examples have been identified and these have also been given IKB numbers.
Many of Klein's artistic activities, such as selling zones of 'immaterial' space for the price of gold, trod a fine line between shamanism and commercialism. Like other artists of the Nouveau Réaliste movement in France, or the Italian artist Piero Manzoni, Klein's practice was strongly influenced by the originality, irreverence and wit of the French artist Marcel Duchamp. The production of monochrome paintings was probably conceived by Klein as both a spiritual and a marketable activity. At his 1957 exhibition in Milan, he displayed a series of 11 ostensibly identical blue monochromes, each with a different price which he claimed reflected its unique spirit. As he explained: 'Each blue world of each painting, although the same blue and treated in the same way, presented a completely different essence and atmosphere. None resembled any other – no more than pictoral moments resemble each other – although all were of the same superior and subtle nature (marked by the immaterial) … The most sensational observation was from the "buyers". They chose among the eleven exhibited paintings, each in their own way, and each paid the requested price. The prices were all different, of course.' (quoted in Stich, pp.86–87.)
Further reading: 'Yves Klein, 1928–1962: Selected Writings', Tate Gallery, London 1974 'Yves Klein 1928–1962: A Retrospective', exhibition catalogue, Institute for the Arts, Rice University, Houston 1982 Sandra Stich, 'Yves Klein', exhibition catalogue, Hayward Gallery, London 1995 Sophie Howarth April 2000
Paint on canvas on wood
H 139.7 x W 119.7 cm