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  • Writer's pictureOlivier Blanc

Le magasin de Ben (Benjamin Vautier)

Updated: Dec 19, 2023

Category: Contemporary art

Contributor: Olivier Blanc

Photograph of Le Magasin de Ben, art installation

Title: Le Magasin de Ben

Artist: Ben (Benjamin Vautier)

Year: 1958 as an actual store, 1974 as an art piece

Location: Centre Georges Pompidou (Beaubourg), Paris, France

Le Magasin de Ben by Benjamin Vautier, also known as Ben, is a unique art piece started in 1958. This artwork is considered to be one of the most seminal and significant works of contemporary art from the 1960s. This is primarily because it expresses the new artistic notion that "everything can be art" without any limitations and boundaries.

This work is situated within the larger movement of Conceptual Art, a trend that emerged in the 1960s. It was characterised by emphasising the importance of the idea behind the artwork rather than the physical object itself.

Benjamin Vautier is a French artist who is commonly known as Ben. He is regarded as one of the pioneers of the Fluxus movement and exhibited his work internationally.

Le Magasin de Ben is an installation that reflects the idea of a store. Ben spontaneously gathered a range of mundane and kitsch objects, including dolls, postcards, costumes, and other everyday items, arranged them into a display, and put a price tag on each item. The price tags display humorous and ironic messages, further emphasising the idea that art can be found anywhere as long as the artist assigns it with value.

Series of photographs by Carla Baccari

This concept is similar to the principles of the Dada movement spearheaded by Marcel Duchamp, who believed that art could be created out of utterly ordinary, everyday items. Duchamp's readymades such as his iconic urinal titled "Fountain," were intended to undermine the aesthetic values that dominate art by challenging the materials traditionally used in fine art.

This art piece must be viewed from the perspective of contemporary art in the 1960s, where artists were becoming more experimental and conceptual in their approach. The artwork demonstrates an urge to break away from the establishment of the traditional art world and to question the very nature of art itself. This movement challenged the rigid conventions of the art industry and the hierarchy of artistic values.

In its context Le Magasin de Ben is a prime example of Conceptual Art. The piece embodies the idea that everything has the potential to be art, and it contributed towards the idea of challenging the traditional values of gallery spaces that continue to influence contemporary art practices to this day. Through this artwork, Ben exemplifies the notions of the Fluxus and Dada movements, which sought to critique the pretenses and structures of power within the art world.

Walk through video of the art piece (Pompidou Centre )


Le Magasin de Ben, gallery, analysis and concept (Centre Pompidou)

Interview (in French) with the artist about Le Magasin de Ben, context and concept analysis (Centre Pompidou)

Further research:

- Dada

- Fluxus

- Marcel Duchamp

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