Art World Report Card: Yves Klein and the Blue Nudes

Air-traffic control for 1,001 balloons over Zurich and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, art fan.

Yves Klein, La Venus d'Alexandrie (Venus Bleue) (1962–1982).
Photo: Courtesy Baur au Lac.
Photo: Courtesy of Baur au Lac.

Photo: Courtesy Baur au Lac.

Yves Klein’s Nudes in a Swiss Garden
A thousand and one balloons, all a deep, rich, saturated blue, will be released over the city of Zurich on June 15 to flag the opening of an exhibition of the works of Yves Klein. (The release of the 1,001 balloons echoes a similar event in Paris in 1957, at the opening of one of Klein’s first major shows.)

Swiss art collector Gigi Kracht, in partnership with Galerie Gmurzynska and the artist’s widow, Rotraut Klein-Moquay, will populate the lakeside park of the Baur au lac Hotel with 30 nude figures in the artists patented IKB, or International Klein Blue paint.

Mrs. Kracht, wife of Andrea Kracht, the sixth-generation owner of the luxury hotel, annually curates these “Art in the Park” exhibitions as a kickoff to Art Basel. The fair opens this year to VIPs on June 17.

The high-profile exhibition raises timely questions about the artist’s market, which has been soaring, and which now includes a sizable proportion of posthumous editioned works. The Klein Estate has greenlighted hundreds of such works since the French Conceptualist’s unexpected death by heart attack in 1962 at the age of 34. Four of the works on display at the Baur au Lac Hotel itself will be from the artist’s lifetime, notes Kracht, but the phalanx of nudes in the adjacent park has been cast more recently.

According to Kracht, the artist conceived the piece shortly before his death, The nudes, inspired by the Louvre’s La Venus d’Alexandrie, and titled La Venus d’Alexandrie (Venus Bleue), 1962–1982, were originally slated to flank the long entrance to Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. On pedestals, each will stand about six feet high.

Klein’s works have been skyrocketing at auction, in tandem with the overall contemporary art market and in the wake of the critically acclaimed exhibition “Yves Klein: With the Void, Full Powers,” on view at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden and then the Walker Art Center in 2010–11. The artist’s Rélief éponge bleu (1960) sold at Christie’s New York last month for $17 million. Klein’s Le Rose du bleu (1959), a very rare pink work, sold for $36.7 million in 2012 at Christie’s London, a record for the Nice-born artist. For multiples (normally one of an edition of 300) prices have been climbing from below $50,000 within the past decade to up to $150,000 in this one.

Mrs. Kracht is a collector herself of works by Louise Bourgeois, Joan Miró, Donald Baechler, Scott Campbell, Richard Meier, Jani Leinonen, and William Eggleston, among other artists (favorite galleries include Hauser & Wirth, Paul Kasmin, and Cheim & Read, she says), and she is on the Director’s Council of the Guggenheim Museum.

While not principally a selling exhibition, she says, during Art Basel there will be a luncheon given in partnership with a Swiss bank for the bank’s top private clients. The show runs through July 24.

Perhaps the most challenging part of the exhibition, she notes, was getting the okay to launch the balloons, which required approval from the city and air-traffic control.

The Klein show is the 13th exhibition at Baur au Lac, several done in partnership with Gmurzynska, which has operations in Zurich, as well as St. Moritz and Zur. Previous exhibitions have featured Robert Indiana, Louise Nevelson, and Fernando Botero, among other artists.


Yves Klein, La Venus d’Alexandrie (Venus Bleue) (1962–1982).
Photo: Courtesy Baur au Lac.

Chicago’s Culture Climb
Overnight fame came to Chicago artist Hebru Brantley in December 2012, when Jay-Z dropped $20,000 on a work by the artist during Art Basel Miami week, and then bragged about his buy. But another of Brantley’s fans is perhaps even more crucial: Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Emanuel generated headlines when, shortly after being elected, he released a Chicago Cultural Plan 2012, the first of its kind in more than 25 years. (Since then, every city school has added an arts planner, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.) That master plan called for increasing the number of public art pieces throughout the City, and that’s given Brantley another boost of visibility.

His colorful sculpture installation The Watch was placed on the Field Museum Campus late last month and will remain up for a year. And on June 15, he opens “Parade Day Rain,” an exhibition at the Chicago Cultural Center.

Follow Alexandra Peers @LoisLaneNY or contact her at [email protected].

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