Klein's Naked Model Painting May Fetch $10 Million in New York

A 1960s work by the French conceptual artist Yves Klein is expected to fetch about $10 million at an auction in New York, Christie's International said today in an e-mailed statement.

Klein's 9-foot-wide "Anthropometrie" painting "ANT 93, Le Buffle" ("The Buffalo") will be offered in Christie's May 11 sale of contemporary art. The work was painted in the artist's trademark "International Klein Blue" in 1960 and 1961 on paper, now laid down on canvas, using a naked female model as a "living brush" to create the image of a buffalo.

"This is the second-largest ANT painting to come to auction," Francis Outred, Christie's European head of contemporary art, said in an interview. "Very few of his works make a specific reference to an animal. He's using a naked female figure to make an image of a beast."

Values of classic contemporary pieces by artists such as Klein and Lucio Fontana have remained more stable than those of fashionable names such as Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons, whose prices fell by up to 50 percent during the financial crisis, dealers said.

A photograph from the early 1960s shows "Le Buffle" hanging in the Paris sitting room of Klein, who died of a heart attack in 1962, aged 34.

The painting is fresh to the auction market from an anonymous U.S.-based private collector who has owned it for 10 years. The owner has been encouraged to sell by the rising auction prices achieved for European conceptual artists of the 1950s and 1960s over the last three years, Outred said.

Klein Spending

Buyers spent more than 16 million pounds ($24.2 million) on works by Klein at last month's contemporary-art auctions in London, according to figures compiled by Christie's.

London-based jeweler Laurence Graff was among the Klein buyers. Graff paid 4.1 million pounds, double the estimate, for the 1962 work "Anthropometrie (ANT 5)," showing the spray- painted silhouette of a female model at Christie's on Feb. 11. The seller had bought the work for 388,500 pounds in 2001.

"Klein and Fontana were pioneers of European conceptual art," Outred said. "Buyers have regarded their work as cheap compared with American art. During recessions people are looking for good investments, ready for an upturn."

The record price achieved for Klein at auction is the $23.6 million paid at Sotheby's, New York, in May 2008 for the 1962 gold monochrome painting, "MG 9."

(Scott Reyburn writes about the art market for Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)


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