From 18th July 2020, the Centre Pompidou-Metz will present an exhibition devoted to Yves Klein (1928- 1962), a major figure on the post-war French and European art scene. Beyond the Nouveaux Réalistes movement to which critics, in line with the opinion of Pierre Restany, mainly associated him, Yves Klein developed close ties with a whole host of artists, from the spatial artists in Italy to the ZERO and NUL groups in Germany and the Netherlands. He also maintained certain affinities-albeit more distant and less assertive - with the Gutai group in Japan. Alongside these groups, Yves Klein, the "space painter", took art into a new dimension where the sky, the air, the void and the cosmos are an immaterial workshop conducive to reinventing man's relationship with the world, after the tabula rasa created by the war.
In a world marked by the still-present memory of the Second World War, and in the context of the Cold War and the atomic threat, artists started abandoning traditional techniques in favour of actions or performances where the intensity of life is ever present. Conversely, the use of monochrome, emptiness or light, the aspiration to a zone of silence, collective and festive manifestations are also part of another perception of the world, marked by reconstruction and the birth of new utopias. As Antje Kramer states, "if subversion was one of the effective motors during the first two decades of the twentieth century, it was being evacuated", by Klein and his contemporaries, "in favour of a total aestheticisation-even of politics-which was advancing 'ever further' on the cinders of history1".
The new visual arts strategies developed aim to go beyond the materiality of the work of art, seen as an obstacle to freedom, and to experiment with monochrome, emptiness and light, in gestures where the work is, like Lucio Fontana's lacerated or perforated canvases, open to infinity. This cosmogonic aspiration was shared by these artists who, like Klein, combined water and fire, earth and air. The works of light by Günther Uecker, Otto Piene and Heinz Mack, which evoke galaxies in formation, thus keeping back their anguish in the face of the threat of nuclear war. In the age of the conquest of space, the poetic dimension of the cosmos is put to the test, and Klein asserts: "It will not be with rockets, sputniks or space crafts that man will achieve the conquest of space because, in this way, he will always remain a tourist in this space; but it is by inhabiting it with sensitivity2". This generation of artists, fired by a libertarian idealism, conceived the sky as an immaterial and spiritual shield against the nuclear arms race and the proliferation of its artificial suns.
Bernard Aubertin, Claude Bellegarde, Alberto Burri, Enrico Castellani, Constant, Dadamaino, Lucio Fontana, Hans Haacke, Yves Klein, Gyula Kosice, Liliane Ljin, Heinz Mack, Piero Manzoni, Sadamasa Motonaga, Saburo Murakami, Henk Peeters, Otto Piene, Shozo Shimamoto, Kazuo Shiraga, Takis, Günther Uecker, Jef Verheyen, Gil J Wolman, Jiro Yoshiwara.