A few weeks back Julie, Margot, and I gathered around one screen to admire a project Meredith had found in Paris. What we couldn’t look away from: a striking blue bookshelf so vibrant it felt electric. It caused us to revisit Yves Klein Blue, the shade invented—and made famous—by the French artist. According to MoMA (in writing about one of his monochrome blue paintings): Klein enlisted a chemist to develop the shade, made of pure ultramarine pigment suspended in a binding medium. (The secret to its literal brilliance? No linseed oil.) In 1957, Klein held his first exhibit in honor of the hue—11 canvases saturated in blue—at the Gallery Apollinaire in Milan. To preserve the “authenticity of the pure idea,” Klein deposited samples into a Soleau envelope, the charmingly tactile version of a French copyright, and sealed it: officially proprietary.
Nevertheless the color—known as International Klein Blue—became iconic, adopted and replicated by designers and artists (including another Yves: Saint Laurent, who painted his Moroccan home and gardens in homage to the color), in hotels, even on appliances. “Klein likened monochrome painting to an ‘open window to freedom,'” according to MoMA. Here’s a deep dive—no pun intended—into a few favorite sightings of Yves Klein Blue and its look-alikes.