Everything is art? A question tirelessly asked in the History of Art and which Ben the artist raises again. Of his real name Benjamin Vautier, he was born in Naples in 1935. His future life will be built between Switzerland, Turkey, Egypt but also and especially in France, where he settled in Nice.
Questions, he asks so many and more in his paintings. Famous for his written works, constantly affirming or questioning the world around him. In 1950, he opened a shop in Nice in which he organized exhibitions. This place will quickly become a gathering place for artists of the region, who will together feed reflections on the art en general.
Ben then frequented Caesar, Martial Raysse and Arman. Together, they will form a group of bubbling artists in search of novelties, a group that will be none other than the School of Nice. They wanted to continue the legacy of Marcel Duchamp and push art to its limits, following in the footsteps of John Cage or the Dada movement.
Ben wrote his destiny in 1953. “With this simple and obvious paraphrase, he creates his first “writing”. To better speak and question art, he decides to write it down, to put it in letters and to make writing a visual art. In this way, he begins a first step towards conceptual art that has not yet developed.
As a logical extension of his approach, Ben will then focus on the importance of the artist’s signature in art. In 1958, his first “signature” was born. He doesn’t just doodle on a piece of paper, no, he signs the world, everything around him, everything that moves.
In this way he questions the concept of ego, of self, but also the idea of appropriation. These are strong notions that shake up the codes of art, as the artist wished. At the level of the art market, Ben underlines the weight of the signature today, which has sometimes become more important than the work itself.
Making the world your own may seem like a daunting task, but Ben is not giving up. He will sign a lot of people in the street, his friends, his family, and will create the first living sculptures in 1959. By this labeling of his environment, Ben considers that he connects life to art, and comes back again to ask us if everything is possible in art and if everything makes art.
The thought of appropriation will be the object of his research until 1963. In the meantime, he joined the Fluxus group, which considers itself as a non-artistic movement and which questions the status of the artist and the work of art in society. Play and humor predominate in their group, and Ben’s work will be impregnated with them.
<Its handwritten punchlines in white letters on a black background will then sound like real slogans. He does not hesitate to express himself on current events and to make his words resound in writing. A big favorite at the beginning of the new school year, Ben multiplies derivative products and editions bearing his trademark based on kits, bags and diaries. He manages to put his art in a conceptual dimension while at the same time making it available to everyone.
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