Yves Klein

This portfolio of 10 monochromes is one of the first public gestures by Klein as an artist – if you leave aside his Judo career. He printed this in Spain where he was living in 1954, and he produced it at the print shop of a friend’s father. He was apparently also working at a paper shop at the time and used paper samples from the shop to produce the monochromes. There is some mystery as to the actual print run–he stated that it was an edition of 150, but there are now only a few known copies. When Klein moved to Paris and was trying to get introduced into the art world, he used this portfolio as a catalog of his paintings, a kind of fake resume. The paintings didn’t necessarily exist yet–just this portfolio of monochromes. Subsequently, he was asked to have a show of paintings and he would then make his first public exhibition of monochromes in Paris in 1955. One can see an obvious connection to the Alphonse Allais portfolio too. The preface was authored by Klein’s friend Claude Pascal and contains just empty lines as the body of the text. Klein’s monochromes are laid out in a way that also mimics the format of the April Fool’s Day Allais portfolio–though without the joke titles. Klein titles these plates by location, each color was given a city name and a date – linked to places Klein had traveled. The thing that is relevant here too is the humor inherent in these works. Allais, of course, was a humorist and the work is devious and hilarious–anti-art in its way, but also prefiguring some major conceptual art gestures of the 20th century. The Klein portfolio has also an edge of humor and questioning of normal modes of exhibition and authorship. Both seem very contemporary and form an interesting pair when thinking about one origin story for artists’ publications.

–David Senior