Yves Klein vs. Roy Lichtenstein?
  Resource:artprice   2012-04-16 14:16:16  

The highlight of Christie's prestigious May sales in New York will be a legendary work by Yves Klein which both Christie's and the media hope will generate a new world record for the artist. This news coincides with a recent result of €1.8m ($2.4m) for an Yves KLEIN gold monochrome, representing the artist’s best-ever result in France! The gold monochrome was part of a collection of works offered for sale by the French industrialist Philippe Dotremont on 4 April 2012 via the auctioneer Millon & Associés (Paris). The hammer price of €1.8m was the “Master of Blue’s” first 7-figure result in France (in euros) which is good news for the French market and possibly for the prices of France’s other major artists. In the past Klein’s gold works (representing the immaterial for the artist) have fetched much better prices outside of France! In May 2008 a large Monogold (MG9 – gold-leaf on wood panel, 146 x 114 cm) fetched $21m at Sotheby's in New York against an estimate of $6m - $8m. The bulk of Yves Klein’s seven- or eight-figure results have been hammered in New York (16) and London (32).

The Klein work that will spearhead Christie’s prestigious NY sale on 8 May 2012 is a masterpiece that could well generate a new record for a Post-War European artist. Christie’s has devoted no less than 14 pages of its Contemporary Art sales catalogue to the piece. Its estimate of $30m - $40m is based on several strong arguments: Firstly, the work (FC1 - Feu-Couleur 1) has a certain romantic appeal because it was created just a few weeks before the artist’s premature death in 1962. Secondly, it has a superb provenance since it comes directly from the artist’s private collection. However, its strongest argument is undoubtedly its quality which is bound to impress the curators of the major Contemporary art institutions. In effect, this 3-metre fresco contains all of Yves Klein major techniques: anthropometry (female body prints), his fetish colours (IKB Blue and pink), and a golden surface applied with fire. Together, these factors could well bury his current record dating back to May 2008 for his MG 9 in New York.

Yves Klein, the top-selling New Realist (a French movement that some critics compare to US and UK Pop Art) is the only artist from that period who reaches such high prices outside of France (although Martial RAYSSE is catching up since 2008). Indeed, in price terms, Klein is now in the same league as one of the most emblematic American artists of that generation: Roy Lichtenstein.

Both artists scored their first seven-figure auction results in 1989; Yves Klein at Sotheby's in London (Ikb 86, 30/11/1989) and Roy LICHTENSTEIN at Christie's in New York (Torpedo... Los !, 7/11/1989). But whereas the American artist took just several months to exceed the $5m threshold, it took the French artist 11 years!

In 2012, the two artists’ prices have re-converged, although at a completely different level. Could Yves Klein beat Roy Lichtenstein’s recently signed record (8 November 2011 at Christie's) of $38.5m for I Can See the Whole Room!... and There's Nobody in it! (1961)?

With Sotheby's offering – as its star piece – Lichtenstein’s Sleeping girl for between $30m and $40m at its Contemporary Art sale of the following day (9 May), the duel between the two artists is likely to produce a particularly close result.

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