The auction house Sotheby’s has put up for auction this 1959 receipt for an imaginary piece of art that does not actually exist and says it is expected to go under the hammer for between EUR 300,000 and EUR 500,000.
The receipt for the piece of imaginary art that does not actually exist, which is set to be auctioned in Paris next month, was issued by French artist Yves Klein in 1959, with Sotheby’s Paris comparing the artist’s “revolutionary concept” to today’s blockchain, as an ancestor of the NFT (non-fungible token) of sorts.
The idea was to allow art lovers to become owners of chunks of a “zones of immaterial pictorial sensibility” (“zones de sensibilite picturale immaterielle” in French), and this receipt is estimated to be worth between EUR 300,000 and EUR 500,000 (USD 330,000 and USD 551,000) by the auction house.
Aptly, the auction house also accepts bids to be put forward in cryptocurrency.
Klein, who died in 1963, is famously quoted as saying: “I will enter the largest workshop in the world. And I will only make immaterial works.”
Sotheby’s said in a statement obtained by Newsflash: “On April 28 1958, the exhibition ‘The Void’ opened at the Iris Clert Gallery in Paris, whose space was cleared of all contents for the historical opening.”
But the empty gallery was, in fact, not empty at all, with Sotheby’s saying that the artist had explained that “far from being empty, the gallery was, on the contrary, saturated with ‘pictorial sensibility in its pure state’.”
Sotheby’s added: “A few months later, the finalization of the receipts and the ritual accompanying the ‘transfer’ made it possible to inscribe this ‘sensibility’ in the field of visual arts for good, and for each collector to become the definitive owner of a ‘zone of immaterial pictorial sensibility’.”
But in order for this to happen, the receipt the artist gave buyers in exchange for a payment in gold, had to be burned in front of other people, with the artist then tossing the gold into the River Seine, which flows through the French capital.
Sotheby’s said that “the receipt given in gold for the work had to be burned in front of witnesses chosen by the artist, while the latter threw the same gold into the Seine.
“There were three transfer ceremonies – all well documented. Some have likened the transfer of a zone of sensitivity and the invention of receipts as an ancestor of the NFT, which itself allows the exchange of immaterial works. If we add that Klein kept a register of the successive owners of the ‘zones’, it is easy to find here another revolutionary concept – the ‘blockchain’.”
The auction house said that this rare, surviving receipt, “from the Loic Malle collection”, has been regularly displayed over the decades.
Sotheby’s said: “The first owner of it, the very famous antique dealer Jacques Kugel acquired it from Yves Klein on 7 December 1959.”
It was then acquired in 1986 by Malle, who Sotheby’s describes as a “great art connoisseur, historian, critic and former gallery owner”.
Sotheby’s said of the Malle collection: “Yves Klein claimed that in order to understand and appreciate art, you must soak it up like a sponge. Loic Malle took this approach to heart when assembling his collection, which reads like an anthology of contemporary art: an incredible array of works reflective of his many artistic encounters over the years with dealers, critics and curators.
“But the works in the Malle collection are not just reflections of a particular taste or time. They all follow a common theme: that of experience in all its forms.”
The live auction, during which numerous other items from the “Collection Loic Malle” will go under the hammer, is set to take place at 5pm CEST in Paris on Wednesday, 6th April.