There are lots of different types of art out there, but have you ever heard of art that's invisible? As you’ve already guessed, this art doesn’t really exist in a physical form. But then, why is invisible art so important and expensive?
Priceless Invisible Art
You can’t see or touch invisible art. It doesn’t even exist in real life! So, how did it capture the attention of the masses? Well, in 1958, artist Yves Klein was the first to present his "invisible" art piece to the public. Called The Void, the exhibition included Klein placing a cabinet in an empty room. That's all. Yet, thousands of visitors came to Paris to watch the artist do that simple gesture. Based on the success of this first invisible art exhibition, the artist continued experimenting. The French creator wanted to sell more pieces and his fans wanted to buy his art. Collectors could purchase a series of non-existent spaces. In exchange, they gave him real gold! And, believe it or not, several wealthy collectors happily purchased tickets to view invisible art and continue to buy into the idea years later.
Almost 60 years after Klein's death, one of the receipts the artist wrote for a buyer was sold at auction. And the price is shocking — a whopping $1.16 million! Sotheby's auction house in Paris found the old receipt for the invisible artwork Zones of Immaterial Pictorial Sensibility. The slip is signed by Klein and includes the date December 7, 1959. Previously, antique dealer Jacques Kugel had ownership of the proof of purchase. It’s one of only a few that have survived over the years. In fact, the artist usually asked buyers to burn receipts as a sort of ritual that served as part of the invisible art piece experience. In response, he would also throw half of what they had paid for the piece into the Seine River. While the ritual of burning the receipt transformed the buyer into the artwork's "definitive owner,” according to Klein, Kugel decided to keep his. That means that the bidder who won the auction doesn’t just get the receipt — they also receive Klein's invisible work of art, Sotheby's confirmed.
Art of the Imagination
Recently, art advisor and former gallery owner Loïc Malle put over 100 of his private collection pieces up for auction, including the receipt. Sotheby's compare's the idea of Klein’s invisible art pieces to the NFTs we have today. "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,” Sotheby's wrote. “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.'"
Klein's invisible artwork isn't the first of it's kind to be sold at auction. In June 2021, the 67-year-old artist Salvatore Garau sold an “immaterial sculpture” for $18,300. Called lo sono ("I am"), the artwork is more about philosophy than the art itself. “It is a work that asks you to activate the power of the imagination, a power that anyone has, even those who don’t believe they have it,” Garau said.