Dans le Vide

February 7, 2007 at 4:25 pm | Posted in art | 15 Comments


Malévitch avait, en effet, l’infini devant lui — Moi, je suis dedans — On ne répresente pas l’infini, on le produit.

Malevitch had, in fact, the infinite in front of him. Me, I am inside it — one shouldn’t represent the infinite, one should produce it.”

Fire painting

Klein used gas and flamethrowers to produce these. The effect of an entire room of fire paintings was really striking.


Aujourd’hui le peintre de l’éspace doit aller effectivement dans l’éspace pour peindre, mais il doit y aller sans truc ni supercherie, ni non plus en avion, ni en parachute ou en fusée: il doit y aller par lui-même, avec une force individuelle autonome, en un mot, il doit être capable de léviter.

“Today, the painter of space should actually go into space to paint, but he should do it without gimmick or trickery, nor in a plane, nor with a parachute or on a missile: he should go by himself, by his individual, autonomous force — in a word, he should be capable of levitating.”


Trouvant inacceptable de vendres ces zones picturales immatérialles pour l’argent, je réclamais en échange de la plus haute qualité de l’immatériel la plus haute qualité de paiement matériel: un lingot d’or pur.

“Finding it unacceptable to sell these “immaterial pictural zones” for money, I claimed as payment for the highest quality of the immaterial, the highest quality of material payment: an ingot of pure gold.”

(This was a reference to Klein’s famous Void exhibition, in which he displayed only immaterial pictures — which is to say, an empty gallery. People wanted to know how they could buy these immaterial paintings (!), and the above was his answer. Amazingly, people actually gave him ingots of gold in exchange for nothing at all, except the receipt pictured above. Klein eventually threw the ingots in a river.)

Ci-gît l'espace

It’s supposed to represent a grave. There was a wonderful quote that went with this piece, about how Klein was learning to embrace the hyper-sentimental and tacky. Still, makes you wonder if he didn’t know he was going to die soon.


il ne faut pas craindre les petits échecs, car ils mènent vers la victoire finale – les petites victoires ne mènent que vers l’échec.

“Don’t be afraid of small defeats, for they bring us closer to the final Victory — little victories only bring us closer to defeat.”



  1. I once went to a Yves Klein exhibit in Nice. I had to go by myself because none of my co-travelers wanted to pay to go in. It was probably for the best because I was free to wander and linger for hours. It was the closest thing I’ve had to a sustained experience of religious awe. Something similar happened to me in The Sistine Chapel, but that lasted only 20 minutes. At the Klein exhibit I wandered around in a trance-like state for hours. I’ve been to many great exhibits before and since, but nothing has hit me quite the same.

    Thanks for the post. It’s made my day.

  2. I’m glad, Kari. As for me, I had to return to this exhibit four times before I felt I had absorbed it all. I’ve been a Klein fan for ages, but they had loads of stuff I’d never seen before, all of it fantastic.

  3. J’adore Klein! ça fait plaisir de voir qu’il a des fans outre-atlantique!!! 🙂

  4. Celine, je crois que, parmi les amateurs d’art, Klein a des fans un peu partout!

  5. I think I’m going to have to make a trip to Beaubourg…

  6. Oh no! I’m sorry JChevais, but the exhibit closed last week… I meant to put this tribute up before it was over, but I’ve been too damn busy lately.

  7. Oh DAMN! It closed last weeeeeek!!! I’m such an idiot, I knew it had been going on for a while and I kept meaning to go, but time got away from me (as usual). Jenn, I was even going to say we should try to go together! What a bummer.

    In any case, I really appreciated this post too, Amy. It made me want to run out and see the exhibit! In any case, I’ll be sure to learn more about his work going forward. I had no idea that his exhibits could bring about such intense reactions; the Malévitch quote is of particular interest to me, as I did a research paper on him and his work in university, and that whole period in art history really intrigues me.

  8. Alice — how interesting! I’d love to hear what you learned about Malevich… I’ve always admired his work, but I admit I don’t know much about him. Maybe the three of us should meet up some time soon to gossip about art.

  9. I’d love that! Oh, and *gulp* sorry for the repetition in my last comment — how many times am I capable of saying “in any case” in one paragraph? I have a really strange habit of being both repetitive and contradictory (but not necessarily at the same time). It must come from all these neuroses — ha ha…

  10. Flute!

    Would love to meet up for a drinky sometime in the near future. To discuss art. Of course.

  11. Yo! Thanks for the writer’s comment on my blog… In fact, the problem is that I feel so unproductive these days and that was the rant… But I have an unhealthy proclivity towards self-flagellation when it comes to my work.

    Anyways, as you probably know by passing round my blog a bit, I LOVE LOVE LOVE Yves Klein as well.

  12. Nardac – Self-flagellation? Yeah, I know a thing or two about that. Sometimes I want to cry when I think of how much faster my book could have (should have) been written, were it not for solitaire, the interwebs, mid-afternoon naps, and staring moodily into space.

    But lately I’ve been trying to convince myself that all that procrastination actually serves a purpose — that creativity can’t be forced to come any quicker than it wants to.

    Is it true? I don’t know, but it makes me feel better.

  13. this post put me in a fabulously laid-back/spaced out mood – thank you for that!

    i just read an article on how the Anthropométrie de l’époque bleue was created ; took finger painting to a new level, that Klein. Agnes Varda rapping on it, too : http://programmes.france3.fr/suivezlartiste/index.php3?id_article=35&site

  14. I`m glad you enjoyed it, Aralena.

  15. […] Niki de Saint Phalle’s shooting paintings, and of course — my own favorite — Yves Klein, who insisted that his blue monochromes were simply paintings of the […]

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