Sculpture Eponge Bleue Sans Titre, a phenomenal example of Yves Klein's work, is expected to command the highest bids in Sotheby's Contemporary Art Evening Sale, which will be held in New York later today (May 14).
The piece is a stunning example of Yves Klein's work using sponge, and is painted in his famous International Klein Blue - a hue first mixed and patented by the artist with the help of a pharmaceutical company.
"In working on my pictures in my studio, I sometimes used sponges. They became blue very quickly, obviously! One day I noticed the beauty of the blue in the sponge; at once, this working tool became raw material for me," Klein explained in 1958.
"It is that extraordinary faculty of the sponge to become impregnated with whatever may be fluid that seduced me."
This piece has been consigned from the collection of Sidney Janis, who opened an art gallery in New York in 1948, which quickly became renowned for exhibiting the work of emerging stars.
Executed in 1959, the sculpture is an early work in Klein's experimentations with his patented hue, which began in 1958.
However, it is not the first of his sponge works to appear at auction, with the world record for his work set at $36.7m at Christie's in June 2012.
Sotheby's may well break the auction record, though an estimate for the work has not been released.
Three works, each of which looks set to sell well, share estimates of $30m-40m in the sale.
Leading abstract expressionist Barnett Newman's Onement VI recalls Yves Klein's International Klein Blue, and is joined by Gerhard Richter's Domplatz, Mailand and Francis Bacons's Study for Portrait of PL.
The Sotheby's sale will be followed by Christie's own Contemporary Art Evening Sale, which will be held in New York on May 15.