The Death of Yves Klein

Yves Klein was a French artist who did a lot of cool shit: he painted with fire, faked a photo of himself jumping off a roof and put it on the front page of a fake newspaper, even invented his own colour of blue paint. He released 1001 blue balloons in Paris, had an art gallery opening in an empty white room and gave everyone bright blue cocktails, even got naked models to paint themselves blue and then roll themselves along a canvas while musicians played a symphony that consisted of a single chord held for 20 minutes followed by 20 minutes of silence.

That last one got him a lot of attention. In fact, an Italian documentary film crew asked him to recreate the event. Klein agreed, but it was a big mistake. When the movie turned out to be a sensationalist shockfest more interested in exploiting the nudity than exploring the work, Klein was so disgusted they say it killed him.

Here's how it went down according to the timeline of the Yves Klein Archives site:

May 12: at the Cannes Festival, Klein attended the screening of Mondo Cane. He left utterly humiliated by the portrait done of him, which completely distorted his work. Unbeknownst to him, the sequence which was to have lasted twenty minutes was reduced to approximately five minutes; the Monotone-Silence Symphony, which began as planned on a D-major chord, was rapidly replaced by the soundtrack of some other tune. The blue-covered models were filmed making somewhat ridiculous lascivious gestures, bearing no relation whatsoever to the session of Anthropometries staged by Klein. The same evening, Yves showed the early signs of his first heart attack.

May 15: opening of the exhibition Donner à voir at the Creuze gallery, in Paris, for which Pierre Restany organized a hall of New Realists. Arman’s Portrait-relief was shown. Klein had another heart attack.

June 6 at 6 PM.: Yves Klein died at his home, 14, rue Campagne-Première, in Paris.

You can check out some of the footage from Klein's original event (not the recreation that appeared in the documentary) in this video — along with some footage of his fire painting:


You can check out the Yves Klein Archives here.


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