A Radical Artist’s Journey from Fluxus to Full-On Commercialism

Total Art Match-Box c. 1965

“Perhaps the egotism that claims life-as-art has always existed, but until provocateur Ben Vautier (best known by his first name) and others in the 20th century made a hard point of this theoretical position, it had endured mainly as a subject of interest for lifestyle, opera, and architectural theorists. Particularly starting in the late 19th century, some artists and architects wanted to expunge the differentiation between major and minor art in the creation of a total-art by centering art in human life. Therefore, architecture, which has an immediate and immersive sway on human existence, was the prominent art with which other artistic propensities (such as the art and craft objects within it) were to be thoroughly integrated. Vautier’s égoïste style of life-as-art work has greatly expanded on the early modernists’ drive for all-encompassing, total-art fullness, perhaps to the point where his type of grand, flamboyant gesture has become increasingly obvious as a contributing factor to the global rise of pop zombie classicism. This is the type of art that is key to integrating the world’s diverse and discrete cultures into a flat monoculture. In so doing, Vautier’s hubristic verve has been increasingly trivializing (one might even say erasing) the once important concept of high art as a cognitive artifact of tasteful discrimination. If one accepts this premise about the dangers of a continuous ascendance toward global pop monoculture, Vautier’s retrospective at the Musée Maillol, Tout est art?, raises a wealth of philosophical issues for deliberation that may benefit our art and even our social ethics. It certainly offers the opportunity to review the premise of total life-as-art as a relentless, consumerist drive requiring a philosophic element that anti-capitalist criticism, a-historical art curation, and anti-art postures do not possess.  …”
W – Ben Vautier
YouTube: Provocative French artist Ben Vautier opens new exhibition

“Partie du tout à Ben — tout signer” (1961), photograph

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
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