March 05 - April 29, 2003
galerie jerome de noirmont

exhibition release

From March 5 to April 29, NOIRMONT PROSPECT will present the first personal gallery exhibition of the young artist Benjamin Sabatier. PEINTURE EN KIT (“Kit Painting”) develops in an almost exhaustive manner a concept as astonishing as innovative, that places the work of art at the heart of contemporary socioeconomic reality and interrogates us on different features of our society - standardisation, complete consumerism, the alienation of work and by work (whose Latin etymology is, let´s remember, "tripalium": instrument of torture), the infinite repetition of gestures - and the place that these essential sociological reflections occupy in current art.

Achieved in situ, the works exhibited by Benjamin Sabatier present themselves as "kits". In an edition of three only, these kits are composed of a cardboard box in which there are coloured drawing pins, a pin applicator and an awl, as well as a pattern guiding the fixing of the pins and instructions for use in six languages in which the collector will find the certificate of authenticity of the work, signed, dated and numbered by the artist. Benjamin Sabatier suggests to the collector to really involve himself in his artistic approach, because he should do the installation of his work himself, leaving the comfortable position of "passive" purchaser, to in turn become an artist.

Born in 1977, Benjamin Sabatier was immersed very early on in a strong and stimulating artistic atmosphere. His father, professor of visual arts and a dynamic figure in the artistic life of Le Mans, France, invited contemporary artists (Boisrond, Combas, Haring…) to Sarthe at the time of the famous "Le Mans 24 hour race", in order to create an artistic event around the sporting event. In 1984, the young Benjamin Sabatier, then aged seven, met Keith Haring and, participating with an astonishing maturity, achieved some works in collaboration with the American artist. These works have been notably exhibited in Paris at the Fondation Dina Vierny – Musée Maillol in Keith Haring´s retrospective - Made in France, in 1999.


In an even and rigorous artistic approach, Benjamin Sabatier involves different visual media: painting, sculpture, installation, video, performance… far from constituting a heterogeneous and disparate whole, each of the artistic fields explored interrogates us on the place of art and the individual facing work, to production and to its social implications:
- In September 2001 at the Abbey Saint-Vincent in Le Mans, he exhibited three-dimensional canvases (3 meters per side!) as much painting, as sculpture and as installation. These works are achieved with pages of mail-order catalogues, chosen according to the dominant chromatic that they offer, compacted once and "cast" in an ice cube tray. Once set up, assembled one to the other like many colourful keys, the pages thus compacted and arranged compose strange and overwhelming abstract works.
- In March 2002, Benjamin Sabatier created a sensation while vesting the Palais de Tokyo, Paris, during five days, for a striking and highly noticed performance: 35 hours of work. Sharpening some pencils in succession onto 7 hours per day for five days in a corner of the Palais de Tokyo, Benjamin Sabatier moves, by a repetitive gesture pushed to the absurd, the idea of work in the domain of art and thus opens the domain of art to the physical experience of work, to the experience of the body subjected to work time…

PEINTURE EN KIT appears fully in this research and invites the collector to participate actively and "truly" in this reflection. In the manner of a hi-tech showroom, Benjamin Sabatier´s wall installations, composed of 1500 to 8000 drawing pins, will vest the walls of the NOIRMONT PROSPECT, representing more or less complex geometric motifs capable of reaching a diameter of 1.40 metres. At once creations in situ, reproducible and ephemeral, these installations are the reflections of a contemporary working mode that consumes and throws away. Working on the idea of the repetitive gesture, the artist underlines the importance of the body to work, in its more alienating aspect (infernal cadences, repetitive movements, absence of "sense" and goal, dematerialisation of the production tool, standardisation…). Here the very action to create, "to work" is as important as the "product", the fruit of work, the art work obtained.

In this way, because he produces ´seriality´ and repetition, because he considers the manufactured article as an end in itself, because he abolishes the fine borders henceforward between the work of art and the mass consumer product, because his approach wishes to be social and popular, one brings Benjamin Sabatier closer to the big "concept" of the twentieth century: Marcel Duchamp, Andy Warhol… But the difference to Duchamp and his ready-made, is that Benjamin Sabatier proposes some "to be made", where the work, once acquired, remains to be completed by the collector. The artist involves the collector in this way in the making and the very production of the work, interfering in the creation in an active involvement.


To answer this requirement and to give it life, Benjamin Sabatier created the International Benjamin Kit, IBK. Beyond the work itself, IBK is a real tool that lampoons the techniques and actual structures of the modern industrial company. Also, IBK acts as a direct reference to the IKEA sign, as much in the principle of the kit as phonetically. The artist takes into account, while integrating it into his artistic approach, the whole strategy of the "IKEA Kit" – from the conception of the object, to the marketing of the product, even though here it is about works of art in a very limited edition. The alliteration with the IKB to Yves Klein, this special blue pigment, is also evidence. These duplicated and paradoxical references in this same logo, between the industrial and formatted ubiquity of the Swedish giant and the ethereal grace of the artist from Nice, summarizes and fully integrates into the dialogue of Benjamin Sabatier - between art and trade, standardisation and conceptualisation.

The artist transfers the corporate fact of the kit into the artistic sphere as introducing "ready to consume" there. The manufactured object thus finds its place, thanks to the artist´s approach, in a world still above suspicion in regard to its primary function of simple consumable and perishable material. Simultaneously, Benjamin Sabatier creates an illusion, because, far from being a product of large consumption, the IBK is one, fully-fledged, work of art only produced in three copies. The illusion is carried here to its paroxysm, because if the imitation of the manufactured article is perfected in its smallest details, every element of the kit is elaborated in an authentic and artisanal way. Benjamin Sabatier pushes the perfection of his approach as far as creating and inventing a real tool for the IBK, the pinning machine (as IKEA, in its time, created "universal keys" to assemble its furniture in no time at all), whose existence is bound intimately to the kit and only exists through it.

Benjamin Sabatier voluntarily limits the range of his possibilities, pursuing this way his production of a standardised product: he works on a sample reduced to ten colours of pin (amongst which are black and white), using 1 to 6 colours in each work. Although these drawing pins are currently manufactured articles, they remain hard to find in large quantities in the retail trade. The artist therefore had to become involved and take an active part in the standardised assembly lines that typify our environment, to deal with wholesalers who saw in these orders of more than 700.000 drawing pins the simple approach of a retailer attempting to take a place in their market…

Once the collector acquires the Kit corresponding to the work that he chose, he should himself conduct the production of the work at home by meticulous and rigorous work. Benjamin Sabatier reaffirms in smallest detail the interrelationship between mass consumption, as it can appear in the marketing of ´ready to consume´ products and the creation of an art work. Thanks to PEINTURE EN KIT, art enters the distribution processes of high consumption products and ponders the exact scope and extent of its methods.

Through this device, Benjamin Sabatier associates the collector with his own questioning:

- What is the life of the work of art? The pins once put on the wall cannot be moved any more; the installation is definitive. Apart from the hypothesis in which the work will be kept in its primitive kit shape, the work can´t be resold in its original state. The artist maintains here on, the notion of perishable consumption for the work of art, for the same reason as a manufactured article.
- What is the price of an art work that wishes to be "corporate?" Benjamin Sabatier has created a total of 33 works, each in an edition of 3, numbered from 1 to 3 (without artist proof), of which only ten or so will be exhibited. In such a reflection on work and standardisation, the selling price participates in the artistic and conceptual approach, because such a kit must be affordable and "popular" by definition. The average price is 500 euros and varies according to the size of the kit.
- This price appears fully on the whole of the creation where the work of art really presents itself as a mass consumption product. The "title" of the works, also, presents itself as a serial number chosen according to the colours and the number of pins necessary for the manufacture of the work and is attached as a label on the kit.

Benjamin Sabatier will bring particular care to the hanging of the exhibition which is part of his approach, decidedly lampooning, even to the smallest detail in the presentation of the works - the techniques applied by the big hardware stores. The kits will be exhibited in an educational manner, at once in the form of the kit itself, arranged on a shelf presenting the complete set of its elements, then at the stage of end product, the work installed on the wall, the kit assembled as if it was a piece of furniture.
With this same concern, an unfolding narrative, prima facie in all points similar to the installation units of IKEA furniture, will be put at the disposal of devotees. The artist will illustrate the whole unit set up next to a text by the art critics Léa Gauthier that announces itself like a literary performance. Well beyond a simple prospectus, this catalogue will explain the nature of this outstanding exhibition imbued with an educational dimension that conveys its consistency and its totality.

At the entrance of the exhibition, a video roughly 5 minutes long, produced in fifty copies, will develop and explain the installation of the IBK plot in the form of a marketing presentation like those in the super markets. Although this video is an independent work, it encompasses all the features of the exhibition and would not exist separately from the actual kit. Benjamin Sabatier again puts the question about the common artistic inheritance of our time, notably for the limits of video and film culture. Benjamin Sabatier thus pursues his critical work on the social environment and the cultural implications of our system of consumption. He wonders about the place that one gives to all these elements of our collective conscience: bared of all interest separate from the merely educational interest of the object, the artist brings here a new dimension while introducing them into the field of art.

PEINTURE EN KIT presents itself as an exhibition of a rare intellectual wealth that shines through the relevance of its concept, treated here in its complete totality. Of an exemplary artistic maturity, Benjamin Sabatier doesn´t leave anything to chance and his subject is unfailing. It is in this strong artistic event that NOIRMONT PROSPECT invites you to participate…