Lévy Gorvy is the latest among a new group of dealers to join Sotheby’s Gallery Network, a new initiative launched by the auction house in the wake of the coronavirus to partner with leading galleries to bring new stock to the market.
The online marketplace is now saturated with high-value works listed with publicly available prices in a way that has never before been seen. Among its offerings now available via the Sotheby’s buy-now platform is a work by French artist Yves Klein whose estate Lévy Gorvy represents. The 1959 work on offer is Untitled Monogold (MG 47), an 8.5-by-6.8-inch, small-scale gold leaf on panel the artist made using a burning technique. It carries a price tag of $1.65 million.
In 1958, Klein exhibited an example at the Galerie Iris Clert in Paris, and another resides in the permanent collection of the Kunstmuseen Krefeld, in Germany, placed after Klein’s 1961 retrospective. The work was a gift from the artist to the family of the previous seller in 1961. It was last seen on the market in 2017 at a Sotheby’s contemporary evening sale, where it made £908,750 ($1.1 million).
Known widely for monochromes featuring his trademarked International Klein Blue, relying heavily on a pure ultramarine pigment, Klein was a member of the New Realists, a group established in Paris in 1960. Klein staged the seminal exhibition The Void at Galerie Iris Clert in Paris, in 1959; it involved the artist simply avowing that an empty room held his pictorial sensibility, and that it was in itself a complete work of art. Klein put gold at the center of an elaborate transactional scheme to sell these works to avant-garde Parisian collectors, which came to define his conceptual practice.
In a ritual he named the “Zone of Immaterial Pictorial Sensibility,” the buyer of this immaterial artwork paid a kilogram of gold, for which he received a handwritten receipt. The buyer was required to burn this receipt immediately, alongside Yves Klein himself, who would simultaneously set the gold leaf adrift on the Seine. Monogolds were a product of this performative ritual and an example of his use of monochrome to push the concept of a universal void.
Klein’s notorious practice established him among the ranks of the postwar European avant-garde, despite a short career that ended with his early death, at the age of 34.