A painting by French artist Yves Klein created with water, a blowtorch and two models is expected to bring up to $40 million at auction next month in New York, Christie's announced Thursday.
"FC 1," executed a few weeks before the artist's death at age 34, is considered by art experts to be his masterpiece.
The painting is poised to set an auction record for the artist at the Post War and Contemporary Art sale on May 8. An anonymous Swiss collector is offering it for sale.
His "MG 9" holds the current record. It sold for $23.5 million at a Sotheby's auction in 2008.
Klein invited the media to observe the creation of "FC 1," which 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 at the Guggenheim Museum in New York and the Hirshhon Museum in Washington, D.C.