Le Monde
Sunday March 12- Monday March 13, 2006

Fluxus, a movement that increases in value

This artistic movement, which originated in 1962 and rejected any pursuit of gain, is now superseded by a trend characterized by a steady increase in the price of the works of art.

No definition is adequate to describe the Fluxus movement, which was started in 1962 by the artist George Maciunas. Based on the legacy of Dadaism and Marcel Duchamp, Fluxus is something like the product of a state of mind, freedom of thinking and expression. “It is a moment in history where the work of art is less important than the atmosphere in which it was created,” remarks gallery owner Youri Vincy.
The Fluxus movement branched out as far as Asia and expanded in concentric circles. Artists such as Dieter Roth or Joseph Beuys took inspiration from it for a while. Influences of Fluxus are very clear in music, with the composers John Cage and La Monte Young. The former had set the tone in 1952, when placing his hands on the keyboard of a piano for 4.33 minutes of silence ! “Art should be simple, amusing, unpretentious, be interested in little things, requiring no particular skills or innumerable repetitions and have no market or institutional value whatsoever,” stated George Maciunas. Sometimes reduced to a gesture, a gag or a happening, Fluxus avoided the market.

Ben Vautier is well-known for his ironic aphorisms written in a childlike manner and transforms attitudes into works of art. In 1970 he exhibited in the Templon Gallery with a banderole bearing the text “Art is useless, go home”. Works from this period are very rare. They can be found at the Daniel Templon gallery for the price of €50,000 to €80,000. The price for contemporary works amounts to €4,000 at the Lara Vincy gallery. In January of this year, this gallery sold a painting from 1998 for €20,000. The work represented a volcano with the subtitle “Naples is not afraid of anything” in Italian. This colorful artist has often played with the relationship between art and money. In 2003 he exhibited the Bizart-Bazart, a gigantic installation focused on the theme of the unsaleable, at the Templon gallery. Nevertheless, this work was for sale at the price of €300,000.

Poetry and humor are the sources of inspiration of the French artist Robert Filliou (1926-1987). After having completed his studies in economics at the UCLA in the United States, this artists participated in Fluxus events. From 1965 to 1968 he ran, together with George Brecht, La Cédille qui sourit, a studio-workshop and center of creation in Villefranche-sur-Mer. It is there that he develops his equivalence principle “well done = badly done = not done”. On the basis of this premise, Filliou advocates the production of cheap works of art. Like all Fluxus artists, he opts for the democratization of art. He often causes the distinction between a unique and a multiple work of art to become blurred, for instance by means of a stamp reading “Multiple à exemplaire unique” (Multiple unique specimen)”. It takes less to be confused! He also makes works of which each specimen is different. The Nelson gallery offers a set of cards entitled Ample food for stupid thought (1977) for the price of €450. For €2,000, one can buy his Optimistic Box No. 1. The lid of the box states in English : “Thank god for modern weapons”. The work plays with the surprise effect, as the box contains a stone and a disturbing line : “We don’t throw stones at each other any more”. One of his multiple works takes the shape of a notice, accompanied by a bucket and a scrubbing brush. The sign says “Back in 10 minutes. Mona Lisa”. It is a way to take away the sacred aura of the Mona Lisa, by giving her the attributes of a charwoman. This installation is rare and has a value of over €10,000.

The American George Brecht, Filliou’s collaborator for a certain time, is better known as a musician than as a visual artist. His oeuvre is characterized by “events” reduced to simple gestures. The 1900-2000 gallery, which organized the largest exhibition on Fluxus in Paris in 1989, offers Water Yam for 3,100. This box contains 100 visiting cards on which events are indicated that can be used both in all spheres of private or public life. The photograph of an assemblage representing the hand of the artist Pol Bury can be purchased for €16,000. The price of his works will probably increase, as his entire oeuvre is now managed by the important Gagosian gallery.
Although Fluxus rejected all pursuit of gain, it is gradually becoming subject to the principle of supply and demand. “As Fluxus will become increasingly important as a movement in art history, the works of art will become more important as well” says Ben Vautier. “Art collectors will fight for works of art, and prices will go up.” He will be able to see for himself in September, when four galleries from Saint-Germain-des-Prés will pay homage to him in a joint effort.

Maya Stendhal Gallery

545 W. 20th St. New York, NY 10011
tel: (212) 366.1549
fax: (347) 287.6775
email: gallery@mayastendhalgallery.com