The Wall of Words by French artist Benjamin Vautier (b. 1935) is one of the most visited attractions in Blois, France. Ben was commissioned to develop the wall, which consists of paintings/writings that he has been creating since the 1960s. The artworks have been applied to 313 enameled plaques that have then been placed on the exterior of the Bloise’s art school.
Inaugurated in 1995, the plaques almost entirely cover the exterior wall, which is 30 meters long and 12 meters high. The plaques contain words and messages referring to life, art, philosophy, and everything in between.
Ben has been using his words to convey his thoughts and communicate his ideas and feelings for decades now. Because the plaques are on the exterior of the building, passers-by are forced to stop and look at them as they contemplate how the messages apply to their own lives.
The meaning of the artwork
The plaques have the same effect as attractive advertising or billboards. The only difference is that the artist invites the public to question their way of doing things while also developing their attitudes and minds. Inside, the art school also houses numerous pieces of art created by the member of the group Fluxus.
In total, the exterior wall is covered in 313 paintings/writings that have been hung on the wall. Some of the words written on the plaque include ego, doubt, and love. Some of the plaques contain stimulating quotes such as love is words, time is stronger than art, everyone cannot be a genius, even when nothing is happening, something is happening, and more.
The artist considers each thought and phrase as a challenge that forces the observer to think a lot more deeply about their lives and circumstances. If you are curious to explore the artwork further, you can find a detailed overview of all words in this PDF.
These days, the area in front of the wall of words is often utilized for events such as musical performances and exhibitions. The courtyard next to the wall can also be filled with tables and chairs to accommodate installations, temporary work exhibitions, as well as smaller events and concerts for the artists in the area to gather and exchange ideas.
Address: 6 Rue Franciade, 41000 Blois, France
About the artist
Ben Vautier was born in Naples, Italy. However, his origin is French. He started his career selling books in a bookshop that his mother purchased for him. At the end of the 1950s, he sold the bookshop to open a used record shop.
Before he started creating his provocative art, he ran a popular record shop known as Magazin. His stall may have been small, but he transformed the exterior of the store by accumulating numerous objects. Soon enough, the record store quickly became a meeting ground for artists and lovers of art.
The members of the School of Nice, who consisted of the likes of César, Martial Raysse, and Yves Klein, would meet at the store often to discuss their thought-provoking ideas. He was a member of the Fluxus movement and is also one of the most recognized mail art artists in the world, recognized for his text-based paintings and murals.
In 1972, Ben took part in the legendary documenta 5 exhibition, curated by Harald Szeemann. His artwork was an enormous black banner that stretched over the main venue of the show, saying in white letters: “Art is superfluous”.