A leap into the blue

On 26 January 1962 two men stood on the banks of the Seine. One held in his hand a cash receipt for $250 - in flames. The other, the artist Yves Klein, was scattering into the river sheets of gold leaf. "Zone of Immaterial Pictorial Sensibility", in which the collector paid in gold for nothing but space, was Klein's latest artwork in a career which is charted in a new exhibition at the Hayward Gallery. Klein's insouciant disrespect for the art establishment was rivalled only by that of Marcel Du champ. To the general public, he was the Damien Hirst of his day, notorious for his "anthopometries" in which naked women smeared themselves in paint and rolled their bodies over a large floor canvas. Invariably the paint was blue and it is this colour, the most spiritual of the spectrum, traditionally associated with the virgin's robe, that provides the clue to Klein's intentions. Klein's obsession with the "meaning" of blue and the idea of nothingness is explored in an intoxicating melange of monochro me canvases and reliefs, painted sponges, anthopometries, "fire paintings" and photo-documentary evidence of performance pieces. "Come with me into the void", Klein asked his public in 1957, and the invitation still applies. The real void, though, was le ft byhis untimely death from a heart attack in June 1962, at the age of 34. Romantic, visionary, Klein is a legendary hero of modern art. This fascinating expose of his artistic odyssey is not to be missed.

Yves Klein, Hayward Gallery, SE1 (071-928 8800) 9 Feb-23 Apr

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