1928: Born in Nice, France
1962: He died in Paris of a heart attack shortly before the birth of his son.
Although Klein had painted monochromes as early as 1949, and held the first private exhibition of this work in 1950, his first public showing was the publication of the Artist's book Yves: Peintures
in November 1954. Parodying a traditional catalogue, the book featured a series of intense monochromes linked to various cities he had lived in during the previous years. Yves: Peintures
anticipated his first two shows of oil paintings, at the Club des Solitaires, Paris, October 1955 and Yves: Proposition monochromes
at Gallery Colette Allendy, February 1956. Public responses to these shows, which displayed orange, yellow, red, pink and blue monochromes, deeply disappointed Klein, as people went from painting to painting, linking them together as a sort of mosaic.
Klein is also well known for a photomontage, Saut dans le vide (Leap into the Void), originally published in the artist's book Dimanche, which apparently shows him jumping off a wall, arms outstretched, towards the pavement. Klein used the photograph as evidence of his ability to undertake unaided lunar travel. In fact, "Saut dans le vide", published as part of a broadside on the part of Klein (the "artist of space") denouncing NASA's own lunar expeditions as hubris and folly, was a photomontage in which the large tarpaulin Klein leaped onto was removed from the final image.
Klein's work revolved around a Zen-influenced concept he came to describe as "le Vide" (the Void). Klein's Void is a nirvana-like state that is void of worldly influences; a neutral zone where one is inspired to pay attention to ones own sensibilities, and to "reality" as opposed to "representation". Klein presented his work in forms that were recognized as art—paintings, a book, a musical composition—but then would take away the expected content of that form (paintings without pictures, a book without words, a musical composition without in fact composition) leaving only a shell, as it were. In this way he tried to create for the audience his "Zones of Immaterial Pictorial Sensibility". Instead of representing objects in a subjective, artistic way, Klein wanted his subjects to be represented by their imprint: the image of their absence. Klein's work strongly refers to a theoretical/arthistorical context as well as to philosophy/metaphysics and with his work he aimed to combine these. He tried to make his audience experience a state where an idea could simultaneously be "felt" as well as "understood".
Unaware of the importance of the Nouveau Réalisme movement until the 1990s, New York critics of Klein's time tried to classify him as neo-Dada, and other critics, such as Thomas McEvilley in an essay submitted to Artforum in 1982, classified Klein as an early, though enigmatic, postmodernist.
Alongside works by Andy Warhol and Willem de Kooning, Yves Klein's painting RE 46 (1960) was among the top-five sellers at Christie's Post-War and Contemporary Art sale in May 2006. His monochromatic blue sponge painting sold for $4,720,000. Previously, his painting RE I (1958) had sold for $6,716,000 at Christie's New York in November 2000. In 2008, MG 9 (1962), a monochromatic gold painting, sold for $21,000,000 at Christie's. FC1 (Fire Color 1) (1962), a nearly 10-foot long panel created with a blowtorch, water and two models, sold for $36.4 million at Christie's