At MoMA, Yves Klein’s Other Leaps?

THE DAILY PIC: Photographers Shunk-Kender shot many versions of Klein's fake jump.

Shunk, Harry

THE DAILY PIC (#1389): This is Yves Klein’s famous Leap Into the Void – except of course that it isn’t. It’s one of several outtakes from the original shoot of Klein’s jump, taken in 1960 by Shunk-Kender, the photo duo made up of Harry Shunk and János Kender. “Art on Camera: Photographs by Shunk-Kender, 1960–1971” is the name of the lovely little survey that the pair are now getting at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. They were instrumental in documenting many of the great moments in conceptual art, and often came closer to being collaborators in the final pieces than observers of them.

We’ve known for a little while now that Klein staged his leap for the benefit of Shunk-Kender’s cameras, and this show includes a wider shot of Klein’s judo buddies holding a tarp for him to fall into. But there’s something about seeing the shoot’s also-ran images – the fine photos passed over for final Leap status – that is particularly striking and telling. (Two other outtakes are included below.)

Because of that amazing blue of his, Klein is often seen as an abstract painter and colorist, but in fact he’s just as often experimenting with immaterial ideas about contingency, failure, the ephemeral and fakery. (Many of the gorgeous monochromes carefully documented in his very first book did not in fact ever exist.)

Thanks to the expanded version of Klein’s Leap that we now get to see at MoMA, the photo stops standing as a timeless, mysterious icon of any artist’s great dive into the unknown, and becomes a symbol of the artifice that governs such artistic clichés. It also stands for the fact that any so-called “masterpiece” might easily have turned out  differently, and maybe still been almost as good. Or maybe it tells us that it’s the act of leaping that matters, rather than where you end up or whether the leap puts you at any risk.

Art, after all, is just art – which means that the void is never that deep, and there’s always a net at the bottom.

“Art on Camera: Photographs by Shunk-Kender, 1960–1971” is on view at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, through October 4.

For a full survey of past Daily Pics visit

Shunk, Harry

Harry Shunk and János Kender, outtake from the shoot for Yves Klein’s Leap into the Void.


Shunk, Harry

Harry Shunk and János Kender, outtake from the shoot for Yves Klein’s Leap into the Void.

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