The 88-year-old artist whose work is omnipresent in Nice has left this life on his own terms

Some artists don’t need a last name. Ben was one of them. Nice, Paris, London, Madrid, Mexico City…. Wherever you go, you’ll see his works integrated into the cityscape. But not only – they are also exhibited in the most prestigious museum collections, from Centre Pompidou to the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Touching in their simplicity, they are an expression of his message, “everything is art” and his credo that art is there for all to enjoy. Now Ben is gone forever. But his art remains immortal and timeless.

Ben Tramway art


Ben Life 2


Born in Naples, Italy, in 1935 as Benjamin Vautier to a French family, he spent the majority of his life in Nice where he discovered the art and colours of Yves Klein in the 1950s, then became drawn to Dadaism. In the 1960s he joined the Fluxus movement, an international, interdisciplinary community of artists, composers, designers, and poets who engaged in experimental art performances which emphasized the artistic process over the finished product.

Eventually specializing in lettrism, performance art, and Mail Art, he would go on to become a leading force in the Ècole de Nice artist movement. His famous screen-printed writings are found all over town, in highly visible and also inconspicuous places, and even those who are not familiar with his face or have never heard his name, have seen his artwork. His last major exhibition at the Anatole Jakovsky International Museum of Naïve Art in Nice, titled “We are all crazy ended just a month ago in May. He had displayed 550 works, in part his own, but many from his personal collection.

Ben Performance


He could often be seen around town, talking to random passersby on the Promenade des Anglais or debating with fellow artists in their studios or galleries.

But for all his international notoriety and gregarious personality, Ben spent his latter years living quietly in the hilly Saint Pancrace area of Nice with his wife Annie. On the evening of June 4, she passed away from a stroke. The artist could not bear her loss. The hand that has always held a pen put it down and picked up a gun instead, joining the love of his life on the Other Side only hours after her departure. He lived by his motto “Je dis ce que je fais et je fais ce que je dis” (I say what I do and I do what I say). Now he also died by it. But, as one of his most famous serigraphs states:

Ben Life

Courtesy Villa Arson

The team at RIVIERA BUZZ extends its sincere condolences to galerist Eva Vautier on the tragic loss of both parents within less than a day.

another grey line

Lead image Gil Zetbase, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons; all other images as credited

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