Ben Vautier (Italian, b. July 18, 1935), also simply referred to as Ben, is known mostly for his text-based paintings, such as a work titled Art is Useless, Go Home. The artist lived in Italy until he was five years old. After traveling to, and living in, such varied places as Switzerland, Turkey, and Egypt, his mother chose to move to Nice, France, in 1949. When he was 15 years old, Vautier took a job as a handyman in a book store. While working in the shop, he looked through many art books and began developing his ideas on what makes great art. He felt that for art to be successful it must be both new and shocking to its viewer.

In 1958, Vautier left his job at the book store and opened a stationary store, which soon became a record store. He ran the store, called Magazin, from 1958 to 1973. The store eventually evolved into a place where eager young people meet to discuss new ideas. During this time, Vautier met Yves Klein (French, 1928–1962) and learned about Nouveau Réalisme, or New Realism, the movement that Klein was part of in the 1950s. Soon, however, Vautier became interested in the dada artist Marcel Duchamp (French, 1887–1968) and musician John Cage (American, 1912–1992). He then met George Maciunas (Lithuanian, 1931–1978) and joined the Fluxus art movement of the 1960s, which was noted for its blending of disciplines and media. In 1959, Vautier created the journal Ben Dieu, and, in 1960, he held his first one-man show, Rien et tout in Laboratoire 32. Vautier is also active in Mail Art, which involves sending art, music, and poetry through the mail.

In addition, Vautier has long been an advocate for the rights of minorities. These views were inspired by the French politician François Fontan and his theories on ethnicity. One example of his activism is his defense of the Occitan language that is used in several European countries. Vautier continues to live and work in Nice, France.

Timeline

1935
Born in Naples, Italy
Lives and works in Nice, France

Exhibitions

1997
Safari rave photo, Galerie Soardi, Nice
1996
Orage d'idées, Galerie Soardi, Nice
1995
Galerie Martin Krebs, Berne
1995
Centre d'art Contemporain Roland Farbos, Mont de Marsan
1995
MAC, Galerie des Musées de Marseille, Marseille
1994
Ben se met à table, Restaurant des arts, Nice
1994
A bas la culture, Galerie Daniel Templon, Paris
1994
Non bisognia fidarsi delle parole, Galerie Unimedia, Genoa
1994
Garderem lo Moral, Maison des jeunes, Vaison la Romaine
1994
Deutschland uber alles aber..., Galerie Brochier, Munich
1994
A Bas la culture, Les Art s Production 94, Béziers
1994
La Peur, Galerie Catherine Issert, Saint Paul de Vence
1994
Ben à Toulon, Galerie des Remparts, Toulon
1994
Palais des festivals, Biarritz
1993
Le Dernier Cri, Galerie Art Attitude, Nancy
1993
Je vivant je suis à Nice, Musée d'Art Moderne et Contemporain, Nice
1993
En avril au Portugal je vais..., Galerie 1991, Lisbonne
1993
Je ne sais pas peindre, Galerie Guy Peters, Knokke-le-Zoute
1993
Concert, performance, Expo Art Pool, Budapest
1993
Galerie Hartmut Beck, Erlangen. Descarte et moi, P.R.A.P., Chinon
1993
Ben est-il fou ?, Maison des jeunes, Neuchâtel
1993
Il faut en rire, Galerie Bellecourt, Lyon
1993
J'aimerais faire rire, Galerie des Remparts, Toulon
1992
To be happy in Amsterdam, Galerie Reflex, Amsterdam
1992
J'ai plus de place à la maison, Galerie Le Chanjour, Nice
1992
Basta !, Galerie La Marge, Ajaccio.
1992
L'Arte e sempre altrove, Gelerie Bugno et Samuelli, Venise
1992
Galerie D'Art Contemporain, Saint Ravy Demangel, Montpellier
1992
Il faut se méfier des mots, Galerie Catherine Issert, Saint Paul de Vence
1992
I Don't Want To Art I Want, Galerie Scupenhauer, Cologne
1992
Ben se fait la malle, Espace Tecnic. Centre d'art et de la plaisenterie, Motbéliard
1992
La Suisse n'existe pas, Galerie Rosalp, Verbier
1991
Une histoire de cul, Galerie Daniel Templon, Paris
1991
J'aime les femmes, Galerie Ram, Rotterdam
1991
Je dote donc je suis (sculpture pour Descartes), F.R.A.C., Orléans
1991
Les oiseaux, Galerie Apoxie, Paris
1991
Pas d'Art sans détail, Galerie Malacorda, Genève
1991
Fondation Mudina, Milan
1991
Je pense donc je suisse, Maison des Jeunes, Neuchâtel
1991
J'aimerais faire rire, Art Aktuel, Liège.
1991
Warun kunst ?, Galerie AM Kleinen Markt, Mannheim
1991
Ben Porno, Galerie Art Concept, Nice
1991
7 ans de bonheur, Galerie Camomille, Bruxelles
1991
Galerie Emily Harvey, New York
1991
Le forum des questions de Ben, Centre Pompidou, Paris
1991
Je sais j'en fais toujours trop, Galerie Beaubourg Marianne et Pierre Nahon, Paris.
1990
Galerie Shupenhauer, Cologne
1990
Galerie tobias Hirchman, Francfort
1990
Galerie Vivita, Florence
1990
Totems et rideaux, Galerie Catherine Issert, Saint Paul de Vence
1990
Galerie Atr d'Attitude, Nancy
1990
Les Galets de la plage de Nice, F.R.A.C. Languedoc-Roussillon, Montpellier
1989
Galerie Lebon, Paris
1989
Galerie Emily Harvey, New York.