Would you pay $500,000 for an invisible artwork?

Words by
Lee Cassanell

23rd March 2022

A Sothebys auction of a receipt is expected to fetch half a million dollars.

One of Yves Klein’s ‘Zone de sensibilité picturale immatérielle’ or ‘Zone immaterial Pictoral Sensibility’’ will be auctioned off at Sothebys, Paris, on 6 April.

Created between 1959 and 1962 and often regarded as an early example of conceptual art, the work/performance involved the sale of a receipt, in exchange for gold. Klein then gave the buyer an opportunity to ‘complete the piece’ by taking part in a ritual in which the buyer would burn the receipt, and Klein would throw half of the gold into the Seine. 

According to the 2004 book ‘Yves Klein’: "Klein's receipts verify the existence of an invisible work of art, which prove that a formal sale has taken place. As Klein establishes in his 'Ritual Rules', each buyer has two possibilities; If he pays the amount of gold agreed upon in exchange for a receipt, Klein keeps all of the gold, and the buyer does not really acquire the "authentic immaterial value" of the work. The second possibility is to buy an immaterial zone for gold and then to burn the receipt. Through this act, a perfect, definitive immaterialization is achieved, as well as the absolute inclusion of the buyer in the immaterial.... Klein presents capitalist trading strategies and illuminates his ideas about the indefinable, incalculable value of art."

Only a few of the receipts for the empty zones have survived, including the Parisian dealer Jacques Kugel’s whose receipt is being auctioned as part of the collection of curator Loic Malle, who acquired the piece 35 years ago.

Yves Klein’s ‘Zone de sensibilité picturale immatérielle Série n°1, Zone n°02’ will be auctioned by Sothebys on 6 April sothebys.com