There was a really impeccable Yves Klein sponge painting that came up for auction at Christie’s in 2004. I was the under-bidder for the work, though that’s not necessarily a meaningful fact because you never know how far the other person is willing to go—it may not have been just one more bid that got me the piece.
It wasn’t a very large work, but it was in great condition and very well composed. It had everything you’d want in terms of execution. But it came available at the wrong moment—it was a stretch I couldn’t make. I had just finished paying for a major Lucio Fontana painting that, at the time, had set a record price for the artist. In that case we had prevailed and are very glad we did because it’s probably the most significant painting in our collection (Concetto Spaziele, La Fine di Dio (Spatial Concept, The End of God), 1964)
The Klein would have been a perfect and logical companion work for the Fontana in our collection. We did go on to buy what I call the companion piece now, a very important Piero Manzoni (Achrome, 1958). So we could have had a trilogy of the great conceptual thinkers of Europe of that period. But the Klein was just a bit more than I wanted to pay so I was never able to acquire one. We just fell a little short.
I think we have regretted it since. It’s one of those things that, to this day, I think of as one of the major misses in our collection. I wish I’d bought it.
Yves Klein: RE29 (Blue sponge relief), 1957, sold at Christie’s London in June 2004 for £1.1m ($1.9m: est £800,000-£1.2m/$1.5m-$2.2m)
Interview by Charlotte Burns