Yves Klein is one of the few artists for whom 2008 was a good year. The first Klein ever to exceed $10 million sold in Q2 2008, and by the end of the year two additional lots brought eight figure sums, sending his annual sales to new heights (Fig. 14).
Klein’s lot volume also seems to have survived last year’s market contraction, as more of his work appeared at auction in 2009 than in 2008 (albeit at a significantly lower price level). Houses have gotten more ambitious with their estimates on Klein: Between 2005 and 2009 the percentage of Kleins that sold above their estimates decreased while the percentage that sold below estimate increased (Fig. 15).
But overall the increase in estimates (the average mid-estimate of a Klein in 2009 was 65% greater than it was in 2005) has been well-received. His buy-in rate last year was actually less than it was in 2007 or 2008—proof that the Kleins are still attracting buyers, even if few among the 2009 offerings were high quality enough to inspire estimate-topping prices.
Next week, Klein is expected to bring in more value than any single artist. If his works sell at the high end of their estimates they are projected to total $14.4 million. Four of the five lots offered come from Klein’s most valuable categories of work, which have contributed 82% of his total value sold over the past five years (Fig. 16): Sotheby’s has an MG (“Monogold”) and an IKB (“International Klein Blue”) while Christie’s has an RE (“Relief Éponge”) and an ANT (“Anthropométrie”) (see glossary for descriptions). Since Klein’s rise to evening sale stardom, no single quarter has contained such a diverse spread of highly valued work from the artist.