Zone of immaterial pictorial sensitivity sold for $1.2 million
In our modern digital consumer society, we are no strangers to paying for… well, nothing. Ephemeral online experiences that boil down to (hopefully) singular serotonin boosts, shiny costumes for digital avatars, or the ability to let people know that a particular .JPEG is truly and truly ours. But it is very likely that the embodiment of the absurdity of humanity and the fine line of modern art can be found in works like Yves Klein’s. Zone of immaterial pictorial sensitivity— including a receipt for just sold for $1.2 million.
Yves Klein, the French pioneer of New Realism whose namesake of International Klein Blue was central to his creative practice, led the performance and sale of Zone of immaterial pictorial sensitivity from 1959 until his death in 1962. Resonating more ritualism than materialism in his transactional nature, Klein offered empty areas of space to collectors, giving them a receipt in exchange, and finished the procedure by burning the receipt before art. witnesses from around the world to verify the claim as he would dump half of the gold he earned from the sale into the Seine. The effort is now considered an early advent of concept art.
Klein was not the only artist to see empty spaces – voids, negative space, absence – as their own form of artwork. Andy Warhol displayed his famous Unseen sculpture at the legendary Area nightclub, where he stood on a pedestal for a short time before exiting, an article explaining that his aura would remain. Countless contemporary artists have done the same, including Italian artist Salvatore Garau’s “immaterial sculpture”. Io sono which sold last year for $18,300.
This receipt from Zone of immaterial pictorial sensitivity, which sold at a Sotheby’s auction in Paris to a private collector for $1.2 million last month, belonged to Jacques Kugel, the original buyer of an area who refused to burn the receipt in this ritual, giving the receipt increasing value over the years. With its emphasis on asserting authenticity from the mere self-knowledge of the “owner” as well as the officials involved in the process, it is not surprising that it is compared to the current nature of NFT.
Zone of immaterial pictorial sensitivity was something new in his time – Yves Klein tapped into the very essence of monetary transactions, the art world and the concept of property. It was filled with satirical energy as well as the strange sanctity of ritual, and its echoes can still be seen in the world of concept art. But somewhere down the line, it feels like the real thinking behind it has been lost, and what’s important about the coin is ownership.
Well, that’s still worth more than a Tweet.