Ben takes possession of the newly reopened Musée Maillol for the first large-scale exhibition devoted to the artist in Paris. Bringing together over 200 artworks principally from the artist’s own personal collection, as well as private collections, this retrospective, which features several previously unseen installations, provides the public with an insight into the multiple and complex facets of this iconoclastic, provocative and prolific artist, an advocate of the non-conformist and the alternative for over 50 years.
Following on from the ambitious retrospective devoted to Ben at the Musée Tinguely in Basel in 2015, the curatorship of the historical part of the exhibition at the Musée Maillol was entrusted to Andres Pardey, vice-director of the Musée Tinguely. For the contemporary section, carte blanche was given to Ben, who was invited to display his most recent creations within the spaces of the museum, some of which can be seen by the public for the first time.
In the late 1950s, Benjamin Vautier (b. 1935) more widely known as Ben, declared: ‘I sign everything’. This statement, corroborated by his images and actions, illustrates his belief that the world and indeed art, is a whole, and that everything constitutes art. Each phrase, however brief, reveals a meditation on important issues such as truth in art, the role of the artist in society and the relationship between art and life itself. His ‘écritures’ or written texts reflect his own personal questions and bear testimony to a critical spirit that is quick to question everyone and everything, including himself. Inspired by Marcel Duchamp’s ready-mades, Ben has systematically perpetuated the notion that a work of art is recognizable not by its material content, but by its signature alone.
This exhibition is produced in collaboration with the Musée Tinguely of Basel.
With the support of
The curatorial team
BEN, CURATOR OF THE CONTEMPORARY SECTION
Ben is one of the major artists of the 20th century, known for his actions and paintings. His work can be seen as a reflection on art in its most essential or fundamental nature, and by focusing on the extraordinary aspects of the ordinary, he has succeeded in transforming life into a form of art. His work also embraces a wide variety of subjects including ethnicity, the ego and truth. Ben is incredibly popular thanks to his ‘écritures’ or written paintings, renowned for their impertinence and insight. Ben, born Benjamin Vautier, is a French artist with Swiss roots, born on 18 July 1935, in Naples (Italy) to a mother of mixed Irish and Occitan heritage and a French-speaking Swiss father. He is the great grandson of the 19th century Swiss painter, Marc Louis Benjamin Vautier. He spent the first five years of his life in Naples. Following the outbreak of war in 1939, Ben and his mother travelled frequently: to Switzerland, Turkey, Egypt, and Italy, before finally settling in Nice in 1949. He studied at the École du Parc-Impérial and was a boarder at the Collège Stanislas (junior high school). His mother found him a job as a delivery boy at Le Nain bleu bookstore before buying him his very own stationery-bookstore.
Ben sold the store at the end of the 1950s and opened up a small boutique where he sold second-hand records. He transformed the shop front with a rather unusual display of knick-knacks. Hosting regular exhibitions, his store quickly became an important meeting spot for artists, and attracted many of the key figures of what would later become known as the Nice School : César, Arman, Martial Raysse, etc. Close to Yves Klein and seduced by Nouveau Réalisme (New Realism), Ben was convinced that ‘art should be new and create an effect of surprise’. At the beginning of the 1960s, many artists attempted to appropriate the world as a work of art. Ben autographed everything available to him: ‘holes, mysterious boxes, kicks, God, hens, etc.’, connecting art and life, and explaining that everything was art and that in art, everything was possible. In 1965, he created an exhibition gallery of 3 m2 on the mezzanine level of his shop which he called: ‘Ben doubts everything’. Here he exhibited the work of Biga, Aloooo, Venet, Maccaferri, Serge III, Sarkis, Filliou, etc. At the start of the 1980s, following a year spent on a scholarship in Berlin, he made the acquaintance of a group of young artists that included Robert Combas, Hervé Di Rosa, François Boisrond, Rémi Blanchard, etc., a group he would christen Figuration Libre (Free Figuration).
An active figure in the contemporary art scene, Ben has always supported younger artists and expressed his views on current trends and movements, whether these are of a cultural, political, anthropological or artistic nature. These can be read in his regular and voluble newsletters.
Since 1975, he has lived and worked in the hills above Saint-Pancrace, near Nice. Ben’s work features in some of the world’s largest private and public art collections: notably MoMA New York, The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, The Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney, the Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig in Vienna, the LUHKA in Antwerp, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, the Solothurn Museum, the Musée national d’Art moderne de Paris and the Musée d’Art moderne et d’Art contemporain de Nice.
ANDRES PARDEY, CURATOR OF THE HISTORICAL SECTION
Born in Basel in 1965, Andres Pardey studied art at the University of Basel. He obtained his degree in 1991 and his PhD in 1996 with a dissertation on pictorial narrative in the work of Hans Holbein the Younger. Since 1995, he has worked at the Musée Jean Tinguely, firstly as a university assistant; as curator since 2002, and finally as vice-director since 2007. He participated in the creation and opening of the museum (1 October 1996) and has been involved in the organization of numerous exhibitions, including: Panamarenko (2000), Daniel Spoerri (2001), Niki de Saint Phalle (2001), Marcel Duchamp (2002), Jean le Jeune (2002), Luginbühl (2003), Three Islands: Richard Stankiewicz, June Leaf, Robert Lax (2004), Eva Aeppli (2006), Niki & Jean, L’Art et L’Amour (2006), Hofkunst (2007), p.s. Pavel Schmidt (2008), Rüstung & Robe (2009), Robert Breer (2011), Krištof Kintera (2014), Ben Vautier (2015). He has also been involved in the organization of various Tinguely exhibitions in Rotterdam (Kunsthal), Valence (IVAM), Vienna (Kunsthaus) and elsewhere.
The museum is open every day from 10.30 a.m to 6.30 p.m during exhibitions. Late night opening on Fridays until 9.30 p.m.
The book and gift shop is open during the museum’s opening hours.
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Youth rate: €5 (7-25 years old)
Free for children under the age of 7 and journalists (on presentation of written proof).
Offers for families : Free entry for the second child aged 7 to 17 with 2 adults in full rate and 1 paying child.
Exhibition audio guide: €3 // Exhibition's booklet: €1
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Après 15 ans de travaux d'aménagement, le musée consacré à Maillol, voulu par Dina Vierny, ouvre enfin ses portes le 20 janvier 1995. Inauguré par le Président de la République François Mitterrand, il présente au public la plus importante collection d'œuvres de l'artiste, et brosse un panorama complet de sa création en sculpture, peinture, dessin, terre cuite et tapisserie. Dina Vierny confie la direction du musée et la gestion des expositions temporaires à ses fils Olivier et Bertrand Lorquin, jusqu’en 2009.
En 1955, Dina Vierny, modèle et collaboratrice d’Aristide Maillol, achète et habite un appartement dans cet immeuble. Petit à petit, en une trentaine d’années, elle parvient à racheter la totalité des bâtiments.
En 1951, les frères Prévert ouvrent un cabaret, La Fontaine des Quatre-Saisons, dans la grande salle d’exposition à colonnes du rez-de-chaussée. Boris Vian, habitué du lieu, y crée Le Déserteur ; Francis Blanche présente ses sketches ; les Frères Jacques, Yves Montand chantent les poèmes de Prévert mis en musique par Kosma. Une pléthore de jeunes artistes y font leurs débuts : Maurice Béjart, Guy Bedos, Pierre Perret, Jean Yanne, Philippe Clay, Jacques Dufilho…
Au XIXe siècle, l’immeuble abrite des noms célèbres, comme le poète Alfred de Musset qui a longtemps vécu là avec sa mère. Le peintre Paul Jacques Aimé Baudry y occupe également un vaste atelier dont le volume, fidèlement conservé lors des travaux d’aménagement du musée, abrite aujourd’hui les sculptures grandeur nature de Maillol, au second étage.
A la Révolution, le couvent ferme et est vendu aux enchères. Les différents corps de logis reviennent à des particuliers et font l’objet d’importantes transformations et reconstructions, donnant à la cour, dans les premières années du XIXe siècle, son aspect actuel.
Dans les décennies qui suivirent la construction de cette fontaine, les religieuses entreprennent d’édifier certains des corps de bâtiment dans lesquels sont aménagées aujourd’hui les salles du musée.
En 1739, les religieuses du couvent des Récollets cèdent gracieusement à la ville un emplacement pour l’édification d’une fontaine monumentale au cœur du faubourg. Edme Bouchardon, sculpteur ordinaire du Roy, crée la majestueuse fontaine des Quatre-Saisons édifiée de 1739 à 1745 à la gloire de la Ville de Paris. Elle forme aujourd’hui une avant-scène magistrale à la façade du musée. L’ensemble fut classé monument historique dès 1862.