Two works by French artist Yves Klein to net combined US$4.3m in Paris

In celebration of the cultural discourse between London and Paris, the notable auction series 20th/21st Century Art returns during this Spring season.

After Christie’s Marc Chagall, Colour of Life: Works Formerly from the Artist’s Estate Sale in London, the attention will be drawn across the Channel on 28 June. French artist Yves Klein’s Cosmogonie sans titre, (COS 31) work and his Sculpture eponge rose sans titre (SE 207) will top the 20th/21st Century: Paris Evening Sale. Together, the pair of oeuvres are valued between €4.1 and 5.7 million euros (around US$4.3 and 5.9 million dollars).

Alongside them, pieces by Klein’s contemporaries – such as Pierre Soulages, Kazuo Shiraga, Jean-Paul Riopelle, Marc Chagall and Zao Wou-ki – are also featured.

Lot 94 | Yves Klein | Cosmogonie sans titre (COS 31), Pigment and synthetic resin on paper laid on canvas

Created in 1960
65 x 50 cm

  • Pierre Gasperini, Paris
  • Marie Raymond, Paris
  • Galerie Beaubourg, Paris
  • Jan Eric Lowenadler, Stockholm
  • Private collection, Europe
  • Anonymous sale, Christie's, London, 9 February 2005, Lot 29
  • Private collection, France
  • Anonymous sale, Sotheby's, Paris, 7 December 2011, Lot 5
  • Acquired during the above sale by the current owner

Estimate: €2,500,000 – 3,500,000

Klein was known for his trademark International Klein Blue (IKB)

Yves Klein was a leading figure in the European Post-War art world, pioneering in the development of performance art as well as minimal art and pop art.

The year 1960 – same year as this current lot was created – marked a turning point for Klein. After several years spent exploring all the possibilities offered by his monochromes, the artist tackled several new fundamental series, starting with his Anthropometries, whose artistic protocol was based on the application of certain parts of the models' bodies – coated with his trademark International Klein Blue (IKB) – directly onto the surface of the canvas or paper. The imprint thus left by these living brushes conveyed a new dimension to his works. Klein soon concentrated on the central part of the body, the torso.

The French artist first covered the female model with IKB paint

How the imprints on the painting were made

Klein realising a Cosmogonie work on the banks of France's Loup River in 1960

At the same time, Klein continued his exploration of the living and began his Cosmogonies series. In 1960, at the mouth of the Loup River – southeastern France – he made his first captures of the state-moment of nature, still using pigment, to grasp and abstract the substance of the environment around him.

Blending his Anthropometries and Cosmogonies series, this current work combines both plant and female model onto the same surface. Constituting one of his most accomplished works in the mastery of technique, Cosmogonie sans titre (COS 31) was first given to Klein's godfather, Pierre Gasperini, and then joined his mother, Marie Raymond's collection. 

Lot 88 | Yves Klein | Sculpture eponge rose sans titre (SE 207), Dry pigment and synthetic resin on natural sponge, metal rod and stone base

Created in 1959
44 x 25 x 19 cm

  • Private collection, Sao Paulo
  • Anonymous sale, Sotheby’s, London, 26 June 1986, Lot 640
  • Private collection, Japan
  • Galerie Bonnier, Geneve
  • Private collection, Europe (Acquired from the above in 1998)
  • Anonymous sale, Christie's, London, 11 February 2015, Lot 5
  • Acquired during the above sale by the current owner

Estimate: €1,600,000 – 2,200,000

This present sculpture is one of seven examples of Klein’s celebrated Sculptures eponges (Sponge sculptures) rendered in the exquisite madder rose shade that made up a third of his signature colour triad – International Klein Blue, gold and rose.

Created a year before Klein’s 1960 record-breaking masterpiece, Le Rose du bleu (RE 22); this present oeuvre exemplifies Klein’s explorations into the immaterial – anticipating the spiritual significance that the colour pink symbolises in his work. Balanced atop a slender stem of the same hue, the sponge erupts organically from its stone base as though a celestial flower, its bulbous head like a fertile bloom.

Klein's Le Rose du bleu (RE 22), (1960) set a new global auction record for a French Post-War artist | Christie's London, 2012 | Sold: £23.5 million (around US$36.7 million)

Klein with Sculptures eponges works in his Parisian studio

Each Sculpture eponge resembles its own isolated constellation, hovering in mid-air and elevated on a stem. Impregnated with rose pink, Sculpture eponge rose sans titre, (SE 207) anticipates Klein’s later galactic Reliefs planetaires, also tinted rose – indicative of the connection the artist made between cosmology and spirituality.

In this context, the savage living material of the saturated sponge offered itself as the perfect natural symbol of mediation between the immaterial realm of the spirit and material world of nature. Capable of holding a variety of elements – water, air, sand and grit – within itself all at the same time, the sponge when saturated with pink pigment was the perfect articulation of his notions of a base, elemental, material being impregnated with a higher dimensional essence.

Lot 89 | Pierre Soulages | Peinture 143 x 202 cm, 4 decembre 1970; Oil on canvas

Created in 1970
143 x 202 cm

  • Gimpel Fils Gallery, London (1971)
  • Nahmad Collection, Italy (1974)
  • Christian Fayt, Bruxelles
  • Private collection, Europe
  • Acquired during the above sale by the current owner

Estimate: €1,500,000 – 2,000,000

Held in the same private collection since 1974 and unseen in public during that time, this current painting is a large-scale painting by Pierre Soulages. Measuring 143 by 202 centimetres, the canvas is divided into broad, horizontal bands of off-white and warm brown paint, overlaid with graphic, looping strokes of inky black.

In 1947, Soulages first made unified, linear compositions. Realising in them the guiding principle of his art – if a line did not record the duration of its making – time was brought to a standstill, and movement transformed into dynamic tension. He experimented with chiaroscuro (treatment of light and shade) effects and dark, interlocking beams of paint throughout the 1950s, eventually creating complex, translucent colour in his works through scraping away layers of impasto.

Pierre Soulages

Soulages creating an oeuvre using his thick brushstrokes 

Stark, angular black silhouettes dominated the following decade as Soulages honed his paintings’ stillness and structural integrity, before giving way to the long, low, lucid works of the early 1970s – as seen in this painting. Dialling back his palette to a vocabulary of warm, browns, blacks and bone-whites, he found new joy and facility in revisiting brou de noix. This was the walnut stain he had used in his early years – now mixed with an acrylic-vinyl emulsion unavailable in the 1940s.

Rather than painting with any design in mind, he responds to the paint in front of him, working directly with its viscosity, translucency and colour to build a structure that can be apprehended in an instant. He uses blunt housepainters’ brushes or wide, flat scraping tools that he constructs himself from scraps of leather and rubber, purposely eliding the expressive dimensions of the brushstroke. The number and diversity of his strokes was refined as their breadth was amplified, and his materials’ myriad interactions with light were exploited to ever greater intensity and contrast.

Other highlight lots:

Lot 105 | Kazuo Shiraga | Kyoko Kenro, Oil on canvas

Created in 1982
130 x 195 cm

  • Galerie Stadler, Paris
  • Acquired during the above sale by the current owner

Estimate: €1,200,000 – 1,800,000

Lot 92 | Jean Paul Riopelle | Sans titre, Oil on canvas

Created in 1953
88.5 x 130 cm

  • Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York
  • Galerie Hotch, Toronto
  • Private collection
  • Anonymous sale, Sotheby's, London, 25 June 2003, Lot 31
  • Acquired during the above sale by the current owner

Estimate: €1,000,000 – 1,500,000

Lot 93 | Marc Chagall | Le Peintre, Oil on canvas

Created in 1978
65.1 x 50.2 cm

  • Galerie Maeght, Paris
  • Marcel Bernheim, Paris (acquired from it); sale, Christie's, London, 26 June 1989, Lot 62
  • Private collection (acquired during this sale)
  • Sale, Christie's, London, 28 November 1995, Lot 49
  • Private collection, Europe (acquired during this sale); sale, Christie's, London, 30 June 1999, Lot 531
  • Private collection (acquired during this sale); sale, Christie's, New York, 9 November 2000, Lot 277
  • Galerie von Vertes, Zurich
  • Private collection, Palm Beach (acquired from it in February 2022); sale, Sotheby's, New York, 8 May 2014, Lot 192
  • Private collection (acquired during this sale)
  • Acquired during the above sale by the current owner

Estimate: €1,000,000 – 1,500,000

Lot 86 | Pierre Soulages | Peinture 54.5 x 38 cm, 27 novembre 1956; Oil on canvas

Created in 1956
54.5 x 38 cm

  • M. May Collection, Beverly Hills (1957)
  • Anonymous sale, Christie’s, London, 30 November 1989, Lot 713
  • Private collection, Europe
  • Anonymous sale, Drouot-Montaigne, Paris, 28 March 1990
  • Anonymous sale, Drouot-Richelieu, Paris, 11 April 1994, Lot 14
  • Private collection, Europe (acquired during this sale)
  • Private collection
  • Acquired during the above sale by the current owner in 2015

Estimate: €600,000 – 800,000

Lot 85 | Zao Wou-ki | 12.11.63, Oil on canvas

Created in 1963
46 x 50 cm

  • Private collection, France

Estimate: €400,000 – 600,000

Auction Details:

Auction House: Christie’s Paris
Sale: 20th/21st Century: Paris Evening Sale
Date and Time: 28 June 2022 | 5pm (Paris local time)
Number of lots: 26