NEW YORK — An iconic painting by French artist Yves Klein created with water, a blowtorch and two models has sold at a New York City auction for $36.4 million.
Christie's auction house said "FC 1" set an auction record for the artist Tuesday night. The painting was sold to a buyer who wishes to remain anonymous, Christie's said.
The painting was executed a few weeks before the artist's death in 1962 at age 34 and is considered to be his masterpiece. It was offered for sale by an anonymous Swiss collector.
The previous Klein record was for his "MG 9," which sold for $23.5 million at Sotheby's in 2008.
Among other highlights at the sale was Mark Rothko's "Orange, Red, Yellow," which had been in the collection of the late philanthropist David Pincus of Philadelphia and for years on loan at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It sold for $86.8 million, a record for the artist.
Christie's said it was the most important Rothko to come on the market since 2007 when "White Center (Yellow, Pink and Lavender on Rose)" from the David Rockefeller collection sold for $72.8 million, the previous record.
When he was creating "FC 1," Klein invited the media to observe him. It was videotaped and featured in a documentary on the artist titled "La Revolution Bleue."
It shows Klein dousing two models with water as they press their bodies against a fire-resistant board. As they step away, he points a blowtorch at the surface, and the moistened areas resist scorching.
The models then coat their bodies with paint and again press themselves against the flame-licked board, leaving impressions of their breasts and thighs. Klein then applies blue and splashes of pink pigment around the silhouettes.
The painting "embodies Klein's obsession with the irreconcilable concept of presence and absence, life and death," said Loic Gouzer, Christie's post-war and contemporary art specialist.
It has been included in major museum retrospectives of the artist, including at the Guggenheim Museum in New York and the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C.
The auction sales include the buyer's premium.