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Yves Klein’s Ingenious Marketing Scheme

April 15, 2022

Now you see it…. now you don’t. Or maybe you never saw it at all! Yves Klein came up with an ingenious marketing scheme back in 1958 when he opened an exhibit in Paris titled “The Void,” which featured invisible artwork. Klein continued ‘creating’ these pieces until he died in 1962.

paper receipt from Yves Klein from 1959

Receipt from Yves Klein for Invisible Artwork

Visitors came to the exhibit to see Klein’s latest collection and purchased the invisible pieces, known as ‘zones,’ for gold bullion (20 grams of gold.) Klein gave each purchaser a signed receipt for his conceptual artwork as proof of ownership. Not many receipts remain because, after the purchase, Klein offered his clients a choice to keep their receipt or participate in a bit of performance art. Klein would have the buyer burn the receipt, and he would dump half the gold that was paid for it into the Seine River to rebalance the ‘natural order’ that was unbalanced by the sale. Klein’s performance was always in the presence of an art critic or distinguished dealer, an art museum director, and at least two witnesses.

One of the purchasers, Jacques Kugel, purchased a piece in 1959 titled Zone of Immaterial Pictorial Sensibility and chose to keep his receipt. The ‘artwork’ and receipt were exhibited at museums and galleries across Europe. Eventually, ‘they’ were purchased by art advisor and curator Loïc Malle in 1986. More than a hundred items from Malle’s collection were auctioned, including the receipt and, I assume, the artwork (which is invisible). The receipt was expected to bring €280K to €500K ($330K to $550K) and exceeded the estimate when it sold for €850K ($1.2 M w/p). I hope the new owner enjoys countless hours staring at his unique artwork.