Most people never get to see art galleries when they’re between shows and completely empty of art. Personally, I often find that I like the now orthodox and universal white cube gallery setup much more when it’s vacant than I do when it’s full. I’m remembered in a few places for having them paint the walls because I hate white ones so much when I’m showing my work. I’m guessing that Yves Klein (1928-1962) was also struck by the alienating, Zen effect of the empty white gallery and its effect on our state of mind as we look at art; hence Le Vide (The Void) of 1958 at Galerie Iris Clert, Paris.
This completely whitewashed, bare space was meticulously hyped by Klein and the resulting so-called “scandal” of an artist exhibiting an empty gallery attracted over two thousand people to the opening. Note the empty vitrine in one of the pictures. Here’s where I sigh and ruefully shake my head at the fact that over half a century on from Klein, there are still some otherwise intelligent people (including artists) who don’t understand conceptual art, performance and artistic interventions, and still think it’s scandalous and enraging if an artist doesn’t produce a saleable physical object.
On the subject of white sterility, though, The Void in these photographs actually looks quite grimy and textured in that particularly Parisian way, doesn’t it? It’s not a smooth, clinical space, that’s for certain.
These images are from the interesting and comprehensive Yves Klein Archives.