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Seffa Klein

The son of the artist is not the artist

We can’t confirm that talent is transmitted through the genes. It’s rare for an artist to pass on to their progeny the ability to truly express themselves in the domain of the visual arts. Throughout art history we find studios run by father and son, like the Bruegels for example, but the children are often restricted to copying the work of their elders in order to maintain the success of the atelier.

Picasso and Matisse

So it’s hard to find, among the descendants of the lion presiding over 20th-century painting, Picasso, true artists. Similarly, take the French colour magician Henri Matisse: his most famous child, Pierre, gained fame by becoming… an art dealer in New York.

Yves Klein and his family

Yves Klein

There is, however, a notable exception to this un-transmittable artistic quality: the family of Yves Klein (1928-1962). There was once a revolutionary artist who died very young. Embracing the pursuit of the absolute, he wanted to communicate this through his art, assuming new forms (installations, performances…), and Yves’s mother was Marie Raymond (1908-1989), an artist herself but also a poet and art critic. (His father Fred was also a Dutch figurative painter, but that’s another story). On 21 January 1962 Yves Klein married a German artist, Rotraut Uecker (born in 1938), whose brother Gunther Uecker (born in 1930) was himself an artist too. Yves Klein died of a heart attack on 6 June 1962. He never knew his son, Yves Amu Klein, who was born on 6 August 1962. The latter went to live in the United States and had a daughter, Seffa Klein, who was born in 1996 in Arizona.

Poggi Gallery

Seffa Klein

The Poggi gallery, located opposite the Centre Pompidou Piazza, is staging a substantial exhibition of her work, accompanied by artworks from other members of this “dynasty”. The exhibition, running until 13 July, is titled: “Une constellation familiale” (A Family Constellation). The young artist with piercing blue eyes studied at the university of UCLA in California. Seffa Klein is also passionate about astronomy and astrophysics.

Visions of space

Seffa Klein

She creates abstract paintings which are, in some cases, covered in overlapping geometric forms. (On sale for between 10,000 and 30,000 euros for the paintings and from 1000 euros for the drawings). They symbolize visions of space and Seffa wanted to imbue them with a certain spirituality. Her paintings have the particular feature that they are animated by colours with a metallic sheen.

Seffa Klein

Because Seffa Klein doesn’t work using paint, but instead uses a very particular metal, bismuth, to create her compositions. Her canvases are also not strictly speaking made of fabric but rather of fibreglass that resists the process she applies to the material: a form of oxidization. “Bismuth has a mysterious origin that interests me. It also has metaphysical and medicinal properties. It’s the heaviest non-toxic metal. It fits the concept of my work perfectly. It’s a kind of absolute, which contains everything within it. All the colours I create are this way because of a process of oxidization of bismuth,” Seffa explains.

Family heritage

The young woman feels particularly in tune with her family heritage: “We share ideas that transcend the principle of genetics. We have common conceptual and metaphysical obsessions.” Her great-grandmother, Marie Raymond, was in fact also inspired by space. She wanted, as she wrote, to “recompose life, construct a world (…) compose an elsewhere in which I would feel the exalting light, of Space, of the need to live.”

Marie Raymond’s abstraction

Marie Raymond

Marie Raymond painted in an abstract style, inspired by cubism, until the 1960s. From 1962, unable to recover from the death of her only son, she made further series on a more cosmic theme. Poggi are presenting one of her canvases from 1969 baptized “La naissance des astres” (on sale for 30,000 euros). The painter, who had minor fame during her lifetime, was displayed at the Sao Paulo Biennale in 1951 and at the Centre Pompidou in 1971.

But she was later forgotten, despite several attempts, such as a retrospective in 1993 at the modern art museum in Nice. At auction her prices plateau at 30,000 euros. The Diane de Polignac gallery in Paris recently staged two exhibitions on her in collaboration with her estate and more specifically with her grandson, Yves Amu Klein. The small format paintings from the 1970s and 80s were on sale there for between 10,000 and 15,000 euros.

Rotraut

Jérôme Poggi with a Rotraut painting

As for her daughter in law, Rotraut, who nowadays lives in Phoenix in Arizona, her abstract aluminium sculptures have sold for up to 190,500 euros at auction. The Poggi gallery is presenting some of her paintings from the 1960s which resemble depictions of solar eclipses. They are not for sale. But recently a canvas in the same spirit, also a cosmic one, dating from 1973, was sold at Drouot last December for 5120 euros.(See here a video interview of Rotraut speaking about Yves Klein).

Rotraut

 

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Yves Klein

Yves Klein

Lastly, while the Poggi gallery is presenting some works by the famous artist in the dynasty, Yves Klein, including a small sponge (1) that had belonged to the German writer Hermann Hesse, who also died in 1962 (on sale for 150,000 euros), you have to cross the Atlantic to visit the most extraordinary show dedicated to him right now.

Levy, Gorvy, Dayan gallery

Until 25 May the Levy, Gorvy, Dayan gallery is presenting an ensemble of major works by the artist who called himself a “painter of space”, in their impressive premises on 64th Street in New York. Here we find, for example, his pure blue powdered pigment patented as IKB (which stands for International Klein Blue) accumulated on the floor to create a kind of pool. The radical artwork, conceived in 1957, is like a colourful carpet in which colour becomes sculpture.

Anthropometries

Anthropométries

But above all the exhibition gives pride of place to what the artist called “Anthropometries”. The catalogue of the exhibition dedicated to him in 2020 at the Centre Pompidou Metz cited him on this subject: “I want to paint as though I were running in all directions across a battle field.” (See the report about the show in Centre Pompidou Metz here).

The Anthropometries were created directly using the naked bodies of women daubed with paint and used like giant paintbrushes, as they pressed themselves against the surface of the canvas. This produces tense silhouettes with bow-like curves that seem to defy gravity. Space, fire, water, and air are also used by the artist, who was an activist for “immaterial art”, proclaiming: “The paintings are just the ashes of my art.”

YVes Klein

12 million dollars

Nowadays these “ashes” sell for tens of millions of dollars. However, “the market is particularly selective,” explains Dominique Levy, co-founder of the New York gallery. “There are few quality pieces in circulation. We did, however, sell an Anthropometry a few months ago for a price over 12 million dollars.” In June 2022 a large Anthropometry sold at auction for a record price for the artist: 31.5 million euros.

The market is suffering

Yves Klein

But Dominique Levy also observes a recent drop in the artist’s values: “The market has been suffering for around 3 years. Because Europe is in recession. The euro is weak. Like Klein, artists as prominent as Lucio Fontana and Piero Manzoni are less in demand.” The Artprice database indicates that the artist’s price index has fallen by 36% in one year between early 2023 and early 2024.

Elon Musk

Yves Klein

At the New York exhibition barely five works are presented for sale, between 2.5 and 30 million dollars. At a time when some of the richest men in the world, such as Elon Musk, are looking to conquer space, Yves Klein’s project has never been so relevant.

 

https://www.levygorvydayan.com/

https://galeriepoggi.com/

https://dianedepolignac.com/

(1) Yves Klein, captivated by the properties of absorption of natural sponge, decided from 1959 to make it his primary material. It then was imposed in his sculpture as the equivalent of monochrome in painting.

 

 

 

 

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