« Art has to be new and shocking » , according to what the French artist Ben writes. The outline of his thick handwriting is recognized instantly by all schoolchildren ever since he was selected tor ads by the stationary brand Quo Vadis. But Ben's artistic career is much larger than that, and he is above all known for being an influential personality in 20th Century art.
Born in Naples in 1935, Ben spent his childhood in several cities and countries: Smyrna in Turkey, Alexandria in Egypt, and Lausanne, Switzerland. In 1949, his family moved to Nice, and Ben discovered the Occitane land (near Toulouse),which he would fondly remember his whole life, and wnere he now lives and works.
From 1958 to 1973, he directed a second-hand record shop called «The Depot », whose storefront he decorated with accumulated hereroclitic objects in haphazard fashion and which featured an extravagant interior. This shop made a great sensation at the time, and it was on the sidewalk in front that the members of the « Nice School » or Ecole de Nice gathered: Martial Raysse, César, Arman, Sacha Sosno ...the first floor of the shop was a space that became « Laboratory 32 », where his first individual exhibition, titled « Everything and Nothing », was held.
Under the influence of Yves Klein, to whom he was very close, Ben was drawn into the New Realist movement as well as the breaking aesthetic of Marcel Ducharnp (in particutar the « Readymades »). He gradually developed a singular style of art, based on words, thought and writing.
Believing that an artwork cannot always be identified by the style of the artist, Ben signed everything that passed between his hands until 1962, also signing works by other arists and his own body. « I systematically sign what hasn't come to fruition. I believe that art is in the intention and that it suffices to sign it». Moreover, Ben defined his art as « an art of appropriation» until his volte-face : on a cerain day he announced that he no longer wanted to sign anything.
From 1962 to 1970, Ben got artistically involved in the Fluxus movement, alongside artists such as John Cage, Joseph Beuys, Nam June Paik, Robert Filiou and Daniel Spoerri, participating in numerous public demonstrations and international festivals. Through its systematic rejection of institutions and the notion of the « work of art », Fluxus sought to forge a lasting link between art and life. Once he had made his name as an artist. Ben became the mentor of the young « free figuration », which he also happened to name in an article he wrote that was published in the « Flash Art » review in 1981. The period following was marked by his creation of acrylic paintings on which Ben combined his writing and cartoon elements, The 1990's were prolific years, marked by his production of the series « Totems » and « Birds », made of the most varied materials mounted on the most unusual or striking supports.
In parallel to his art production, Ben developped active literary pursuits. In 1959, he started the literarv review « Ben Dieu ». An occasional poet, he published various works in the spirit of the Beat Generation, as well as a number of texts with the group Fluxus.
Today, Ben often exhibits both in France and abroad; many are the retrospectives of his successful artistic career.
School of Nice
- Autant en Emporte le Vent (L'Art)
2013La Fondation du Doute, Blois, France
2012Musée de Louviers, Louviers, France
2012Villa Arson, Nice, France
2010Musée d'art contemporain, Lyon, France
2010Château de Malbrouck, Manderen, France