My culture: Nils Leonard on International Klein Blue

What inspires the inspired? Some of adland's global luminaries reveal where they turn to for ideas, and it's an eclectic mix...

My culture: Nils Leonard on International Klein Blue

Yves Klein is blue.

An artist with an obsession for a colour.

He dallied for a while with other hues, experimenting with monochrome moments of gold and rose. But for Klein, true being was blue. He became famous for it.

Vast expanses of blue. A ferocious kick of colour. Blue smeared in thick swathes across giant squares of canvas. An obsession so large he had to conquer the colour. He needed to possess it. To create his own. And so IKB was born, a deep hue, a blue of his very own.

So, blue.

1958. Paris. The anticipated opening of The Void.

More than 2,000 people standing in line, all of them waiting and wondering what Yves Klein would unveil next. They wait there on the street outside.

The talented, the great, the fucking rich, the hot as fuck.

The queue is heaving with excitement, only 10 allowed to enter at a time.

Drinks are served to the ones that wait. Colourful cocktails of Cointreau and gin.

There’s anticipation, loud laughter, small talk and catching up.

Sips and stories.

The coolest people on the planet being forced to wait in line, dancing in nonchalance, necking the booze to kill the burn of a peasant position in the line.

And so in tiny groups of 10 they are all allowed to enter.

Eyes scan the space, excited.

But there’s nothing there.

Just walls of white.

No art.

No paint.

No IKB.

No curtain.

No unravelling.

No artistic interruption or creative mayhem.

Nothing.

Social occasions must escalate or die.

This is an orchestrated death.

No hint of the blue of being, just ghost-white walls and emptiness.

Drunk and ridiculed, the social elite leave in small clusters and disperse into the city, filtering out into the Parisian night. No mobiles to hate into back then, there is no-one to tell of their ridicule, of the arrogance of Klein for wasting their time. So they curse to themselves, spit insults in the air.

They witnessed empty walls, came home with a party bag of questions.

"What the fuck was the point?"

"Who the hell does Klein think he is?"

"What exactly did we miss?"

Answerless, they came for blue and go home red.

The night was a nothing.

They stumble drunk into their bedrooms, tired and let down.

But before they fall into their beds there is the human need to piss, the weight of cocktails crushing heavy on alcohol-soaked bladders.

The women squat, the men take flaccid cocks in hand.

And piss a jet of pure blue into the toilet.

There it is.

The pure IKB.

Warm and wet, the perfect colour streaming and steaming from more than 2,000 bladders, in bathrooms spread across the city.

Breathless they must have been.

Staring in disbelief at themselves in the bathroom mirror.

Yelling for someone, anyone, to witness the fact their own bodies and an unspoken act had become art. You’d never flush that toilet again.

No canvas or bronze could have offered the emotion that those carefully mixed cocktails did that evening. No timeline to post this on. Just gasps. And revelation. And memory.

A story as vivid as that liquid blue even 60 years later.

This is it.

It is funny and ugly. Deep. And unbelievably moving.

It is the playing card embedded in the heart of a fully grown tree.

The shackled escapologist swimming up from watery depths.

The whisper that became Woodstock.

The men who paused the First World War to play a football match on Christmas Day.

It is every story that lives and lives.

These stories are my blue. The paint that stays. The paint that sticks.

Small moments that remain with us, immortal and hot in our chests.

These are what I live for.

Nils Leonard is co-founder at Uncommon Creative Studio, London

Become a member of Campaign from just £77 a quarter

Get the very latest news and insight from Campaign with unrestricted access to campaignlive.co.uk , plus get exclusive discounts to Campaign events

Become a member

Looking for a new job?

Get the latest creative jobs in advertising, media, marketing and digital delivered directly to your inbox each day.

Create an alert now

Partner content