A Blue Plaque proposal has been submitted to English Heritage to honour the French artist Yves Klein (1928-62) who lived in the Cromwell Road, in a bedsit from 1949-1950. Well known for his signature “International Klein Blue” artworks he trademarked the iconic colour early on in his career. The submission coincides with the opening of an exhibition of the artist’s work Alberto Giacometti – Yves Klein: In Search of the Absolute at Gagosian Grosvenor Hill on 27 April 2016.
During research for the exhibition, curator Richard Calvocoressi discovered that Yves Klein spent a formative nine months in London as a young man (1949-50) working for a framing and restoration shop in South Kensington, Robert Savage, at 65 Old Brompton Road. It was at Savage’s that Klein first came into contact with the materials that he would later use to make his art, especially pure pigment, gesso and gold leaf.
In his submission to English Heritage, Richard Calvocoressi writes; ‘Although he died young, Klein is one of the most radical figures in postwar western art. He influenced the development of Minimal, Conceptual and Performance Art, taking painting out of the frame, which he felt had imprisoned it for too long, and into the spectator’s environment. Arguably, his most famous creation was the monochrome, painted in his signature ultramarine blue. Patented by Klein as IKB (International Klein Blue), this colour retained the radiance and intensity of the original blue pigment – unlike oil paint, Klein thought – ‘saturating’ the viewer’s space. IKB is not dissimilar in hue to the blue of the Blue Plaques.
Klein also blurred the boundaries between painting and sculpture by impregnating a whole range of objects, from sponges to plaster casts, with his special blue. In his anthropometries, he used naked female models smothered in paint to impress their moving bodies on large sheets of paper. He invented a number of other strategies to depersonalise and dematerialise the art object including using fire and presenting empty space (‘the void’) which he felt was pregnant with possibility. Never made rich from his art during his lifetime, it is perhaps ironic that his works now sell for millions at auction. Since his death there have been retrospective exhibitions in most of the major museums of modern art in the world, including the Centre Pompidou, Paris (twice) and Tate.’
Alberto Giacometti – Yves Klein: In Search of the Absolute 27 April – 11 June 2016 Gagosian Gallery 20 Grosvenor Hill London