Christie's to offer major Klein painting in May

An employee poses for photographers as she walks past the "ANT 93, Le Buffle (The Buffalo)" painting from 1960-61 by French artist Yves Klein at Christie's auction house in London March 4, 2010. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - A major work by French artist Yves Klein, made using naked female models coated in his signature blue paint, will be offered for sale at Christie’s in New York in May, the auctioneer said on Thursday.

The sale follows strong prices for the prominent post-war artist during recent sales in London, and “ANT 93, Le Buffle” (The Buffalo) of 1960-61 is expected to fetch around $10 million when it goes under the hammer on May 11.

The painting, which measures some nine feet across, is being offered at auction for the first time and belongs to what Christie’s calls the last great series created by Klein before his death in 1962, aged 34, of a heart attack.

A photograph reproduced by the auction house shows the work hanging on the artist’s sitting room wall in his Paris apartment.

The “Anthropometrie” series involved applying paint using the bodies of naked female models, often referred to as “living brushes.”

Klein would often dress in evening wear and white gloves and conduct the production of his painting to the accompaniment of an orchestra playing “Symphonie Monotone” -- a single note played for ten minutes and alternated with ten minutes’ silence.

Auctioneers have been encouraged by a strong recovery in fine art values at recent sales, although the Klein estimate is well short of the auction record for the artist of $23.6 million set at Sotheby’s in May, 2008.

The painting will be part of Christie’s postwar and contemporary sale which also includes works from the private collection of novelist Michael Crichton, including “Flag” by Jasper Johns.

Reporting by Mike Collett-White, editing by Paul Casciato