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.