washington-dc

Yves Klein

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

IN 1958, YVES KLEIN scandalized the Parisian public by presenting nothing but a whitewashed room with a lone, empty vitrine at Galerie Iris Clert. The exhibition, known as “Le Vide” (The Void), was marked by the momentousness of its opening. Among the guests was Albert Camus, who presented Klein with a piece of paper bearing the phrase “Avec le vide les pleins pouvoirs” (With the void, full powers). The room, Klein asserted, contained an “invisible pictorial state,” one that is “direct” and requires no “intermediaries.” Yet these claims of pure presence had to be reinforced: Klein limited the number of visitors allowed in the room at one time by stationing a pair of security guards at the gallery’s entrance, served cocktails that tinged drinkers’ urine blue, and retrospectively wrote a hyperbolic account of the event in the present tense. In all respects, “The Void” was a highly mediated

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