Visual Arts

Jim Avignon – The fastest painter in the world

Jim Avignon is counted among the most unusual figures in contemporary German art. He lives and works in Berlin but he is constantly on the move and he has made his way as a self-taught artist outside the normal framework of Art Academies, Galeries and Museums.

Our film shows the painter at work in his Berlin studio and accompanies him to the Art Fair in Cologne and a Montmartre fringe Gallery in Paris.

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Author: Hans-Peter Dürhager and Ralf Jesse
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Jim Avignon was either born in Munich in Tokyo or in Stockholm and grew up in an idyllic village in the Black Forest. If you are to believe the biographical notes in any of his exhibition catalogues he has worked as a baker, a school bus driver, as a seaman on a tanker or worked in a kindergarten in a suburb of Moscow. Jim Avignon is an artificial creation and the details of his life are as vague as they are changeable. But behind this creation there is a painter and a musician. According to appearances he is about 37 years old, short of stature, lives and works in Berlin but is constantly on the move, has painted thousands of pictures and has had fun creating a whirlwind in conventional art world. Jim Avignon is one of the few who have gone against the precepts of the art world by making his work available to ordinary people outside the formal art establishment and has found international recognition.

Any one on the move in Germany can’t help but encounter Jim Avignon’s work. They decorate the cover’s of Germany’s leading news magazine, as a tailplane design on the German branch of British Airways and they crop up in department stores and advertising boards as frequently as they do in exhibitions.

More than anywhere else Jim Avignon’s paintings are to be found in club functions and Techno parties and the new German music scene with which he has a strong association. He is a chronicler and commentator on this fast new life-style.

Speed is his central theme. He can finish 200 large format pictures within 3 weeks. In 2 nights he produced a work covering more than 500 square yards for Frankfurt University and he has created an animated series for German television. He has caused consternation among some gallery owners by starting work on pictures after the exhibition has been opened.

His first work was decoration for Techno ‘Raves’ in the 90’s and up to today there is hardly a party any week that he does not decorate.

Jim Avignon is also the leading representative of what is called the ‚Cheap Art‘ movement. He thinks that his work should just as much be in the possession of the ordinary man as in an exclusive gallery or museum. Any visitor to his Atelier can probably get a large format picture for a few hundred Euros even though his work brings high prices at auctions. To keep the price low he has to produce a lot.

The general public became aware of Jim Avignon during Documenta X in Kassel in 1992. Each day for 13 days, he painted a large format picture which, often with the help of the public, he destroyed at the day’s end. Art critics saw this as sheer provocation but were reluctant to say as much at one of Germany’s leading artistic events, Jim Avignon used absurd performances to level criticism at the art establishment for its dealing and speculation. He wanted to see his pictures on the walls of ordinary people whose interest in art was blocked by a policy of high prices and the ‘temple’ atmosphere of private galleries.

Despite the crazy tempo of his working life Jim Avignon cannot completely escape the involvement of the art establishment. Last year the London Academy of Fine Arts ran a seminar on his work, many journals devote space and interest in him and there are a growing number of people discovering his work through the Internet.

Naturally painting alone is not enough for him. As a musician he works under the name of Neoangin. His music, like his painting, is colourful and easy but on close listening one hears the dissonance and the irony, a bitter-sweet commentary on our modern world. He also publishes in book form a collection of many of the thousands of pictures he has painted in recent years.
Goethe-Institut e. V. 2004

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