This is Yves Klein and this is his hand. Yves Klein, 1928-1962, is today remembered not only because he was the leading exponent of Nouveau Réalisme and a pioneer of performance art, and pop art, but because of his use of blue. International Klein Blue, generally called IKB, was developed by him and Rhône Poulenc chemists, and patented 1960. This is the colour that has the brightness and intensity he wished to display, and it has led to an ongoing cult. Hubertus Bigend in William Gibson’s Zero History wore an IKB suit because it made others uncomfortable… short-lived Brisbane-based rock band Yves Klein Blue was named after IKB. What, asks the gal, is this to do with luxury hotels?
Well, if you rush down to the woods today – or at least the stunning gardens of Baur au Lac, Zurich – you are in for a big surprise. Now until August 28th, 2014, you see there the only-ever full set of Klein’s 30 Venus di Alexandria sculptures.Every summer since 2002, Gigi Kracht, on the International Director’s Council of the Guggenheim, New York, and wife of the Baur au Lac’s equally passionate owner, Andrea Kracht, organises Art In The Park. This year must surely have been her best ever. The 30 statues, when unveiled on June 15th, 2014, had three siblings inside the hotel, the Slave, the Globe and Venus di Samothrace. All 33 were made by the Yves Klein Foundation in Paris, and brought here by Galerie Gmurzynska.
I gazed in admiration as I lunched on the hotel’s elegant Terrasse. Enormous trees give lots of shade, and there are stone-coloured umbrellas. This is modern luxury. Simple table settings go well with the lushness of the grass that stretches from the hotel to General Guisan Quai, with ferry piers the other side. Ferries coming across Zürichsee hoot from time to time. Were I a typical lunch guest today I would be having a glass of Philipponat, or Dom Pérignon 2004, or perhaps a chilled Rosé Côtes de Provence, les Caprices de Clémentine Ch les Valentines. This outdoor area will do over a hundred lunches today, and about 60 dinners.
But not everyone likes sitting outside. The table next to us has a family with two pre-teens, who manage to escape their grandmother for at least half an hour – young ladies can take forever in the washroom. By contrast I see several other mature and immaculately groomed dowagers eating inside. I go for suitable summer food, a gazpacho Baur au Lac Style, which is honestly much easier to drink than to eat with a shallow spoon. I am tempted to try the luxury hotel’s breads, a pair of white and a pair of olive-studded brown in a wire basket, to go with Baur au Lac’s own, Spanish, olive oil, but Discipline takes over … and I look at so many going to admire, and be photographed near, the Kleins.