Ben Vautier, Fluxus artist and provocateur, 1935–2024

Ben Vautier, 2016. Photo: Olivier Meyer, CC BY-SA 4.0

Renowned French artist Ben Vautier has died aged 88. He was found in his Nice home, hours after the death of his wife, Anne 85, who had suffered a stroke. Nice’s prosecutor’s office say his body was discovered with a gunshot wound and they would be opening an investigation to determine the artist’s official cause of death.

Vautier, who also used the moniker ‘Ben’, was associated with the Fluxus movement in the 1960s, and for the rest of his 60-year career would push the boundaries of art, obfuscating distinctions between high- and low-culture. ‘Everything is art’, he famously declared and would go on to incorporate this mantra into many of his works, literally (in writing) and figuratively. Le magasin de Ben (1958–73) is among his most famous works and included this phrase, among others. The large installation initially started out in Nice as a functional shop where one could purchase records or cameras; Vautier covered the shop’s wooden façade – ‘blackboards’ he called them – with texts and words intended to celebrate ‘life and question the status of the artist and the human condition’. The work is currently on view at the Centre Pompidou-Mertz.  

The artist met George Maciunus, the founder of the Fluxus movement, in 1962. The group’s ethos of, ‘PURG[ING] the world of dead art, imitation, artificial art, abstract art, illusionistic art, mathematical art’ already resonated with Vautier’s practice. A year later he organised a Fluxus festival in Nice, at which Nam June Paik and Benjamin Patterson performed.  

Vautier’s works were often provocative as they challenged the alleged sanctity of fine art. In an ArtReview interview from 2010, Vautier told Anna Sansom, “I once wrote, ‘Je suis un menteur’ – I am a liar”, to which George Brecht commented, ‘That’s your best painting… Because if it’s the truth, you can’t be a liar, and if you’re a liar, you can’t tell the truth.’”

Most recent


We use cookies to understand how you use our site and to improve your experience. This includes personalizing content. By continuing to use our site, you accept our use of cookies, revised Privacy.