* 1935 Neapel
Ben Vautier, who now lives and works in Nice, was born in Naples, Italy, on 18 July 1935. After years of moving from place to place, his parents took the family to Nice in 1949. Inspired by Yves Klein, Marcel Duchamp and the Nouveaux Réalistes, Vautier developed a distinctive personal style with leanings towards Dada. During the latter half of the 1950s, Vautier - years before Andy Warhol did anything of the kind - produced work based on variations on a highly simplified banana motif. In addition, Vautier worked with configurations composed of multiple individual parts recalling Jean Tinguely's machines. By now Ben Vautier had found what would become his trade mark: instructions and explanations written in cursive writing in lurid pastel tones on objects. Between 1958 and 1973 Ben Vautier ran a record shop in Nice, 'Magazin', which caused a stir because of the way Vautier had designed the façade and the interior. In 1959 Vautier founded the journal 'Ben Dieu'. A year later he had his first one-man show, 'Rien et tout' ['Nothing and Everything'] in 'Laboratoire 32' on the first floor of his shop. Taking Duchamp's 'ready-mades' as his starting-point and realising it was only the artist's signature, in both the literal and the figurative sense, that make an artist's work attributable, Ben Vautier playfully took the term literally and signed everything he could get his hands on, including works by other artists and his own body (Body art). Vautier ended the action in 1962 by declaring he would sign nothing more. Like Al Hansen, John Cage, et al, Ben Vautier was a leading exponent of the Fluxus movement between 1962 and 1970, taking part in international Fluxus Festivals and frequently participating in public Performances. By now a member of the art establishment, Ben Vautier became a mentor for the fledgling 'Figuration libre', to which he gave the name in an article written for 'Flash Art' in 1981. Ben Vautier subsequently painted with acrylic, combining script and comic-book elements. During the 1990s he worked in several genres, producing the 'totem' series of sculptures composed of utilitarian objects mounted to form posts, and, from 1991, 'Oiseaux', material assemblages resembling birds. Further, Ben Vautier compiled 1960s 'Ben' objects, mounted them on various picture supports and added commentaries. Exhibitions in France and abroad as well as numerous retrospectives attest to Ben Vautier's continuing success.