A compelling new exhibit of the French artist Yves Klein at Washington, D. C.’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, which opened May 20 and runs until September 12, is a good occasion for reevaluating this artist’s unexpected link to the Israeli military leader Moshe Dayan.
Despite claims on many websites, Klein was not himself Jewish, being born to a Dutch Protestant father and a French Catholic mother. A student of alchemy and judo, Klein died of a heart attack in 1962 at age 34, and an acclaimed Jewish Museum retrospective five years later may have unwittingly helped launch the misimpression of Klein’s supposed Yiddishkeit.
The Hirshhorn exhibit, which will travel to Minneapolis’s Walker Art Center, where it can be seen from October 23 to February 13, is accompanied by a flurry of publications, including a lavish catalogue with beautiful reproductions, and, it must be said, some exceedingly abstruse texts. Far more reader-friendly are the publications under the aegis of art curator Klaus Ottmann, a trained philosopher who manages to make Klein’s complex metaphysics seem clear.