Artist

Bernar Venet

b. 1941

Bernar Venet (b.1941, Château-Arnoux, France), is a French conceptual artist best known for his sculptures in steel that appear to defy gravity. Aged 17, Venet moved to Nice to work as a set designer for Opéra de Nice, before dedicating himself to art making. During the 1960s, Venet developed his Tar paintings, Relief cartons and his iconic ‘Tas de charbon’ (Pile of Coal), (1963), his first sculpture with no specific shape. In 1966, Venet established himself in New York, where, over the next five decades, he explored painting, poetry, film and performance.  1979 marked a turning point in Venet’s career when he began a series of wood reliefs, Arcs, Angles, Straight Lines and created the first of his Indeterminate Lines. That same year, he was awarded a grant by the National Endowment for the Arts. 

 

Venet’s career has been marked by a series of celebrated milestones. In 1994, the then-Mayor of Paris, Jacques Chirac, invited Venet to present twelve sculptures from his Indeterminate Line series on the Champ de Mars. From the success of that installation, a world tour was developed, visiting Asia, Europe, South America and North America. In 2007, Bernar Venet was chosen by the French Ministry of Culture to paint the ceiling of the Galerie Philippe Séguin, located in the Cour des Comptes in Paris. The following year, Sotheby’s invited Venet to present his work on the grounds of the Isleworth Country Club, Florida; it was the first time they had exhibited a single artist at the venue. In May 2010, President Nicolas Sarkozy of France inaugurated Venet’s 30-meter tall sculpture to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of Nice’s reunification with France. Bernar Venet became the fourth contemporary artist to be offered the grounds of the world-renowned Château de Versailles in France for a solo exhibition of monumental sculptures in 2011. During that same occasion the French Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp of his 22-meter vertical‘Arcs’, framing the iconic statue of Louis XIV at the entrance of Versailles. In October 2019, his ‘Arc Majeur’ of nearly 200 feet was inaugurated in Belgium on highway E411 between Namur and Luxembourg: it is Europe’s largest sculpture. 

 

Venet had his first retrospective at the New York Cultural Center on Columbus Circle in 1971. Contributions to major art events include ‘Documenta VI’, Kassel, in 1977 and frequent appearances at the Biennales of Paris, Venice, and São Paulo. Venet is the most internationally exhibited living French artist and his public sculpture exhibitions amount to over thirty, to date. In 2022, Venet’s largest and most comprehensive retrospective to date opened at Kunsthalle Berlin, Tempelhof Airport.

 

Venet’s work can be found in more than 70 museums worldwide, including such venerable institutions as The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C.; the Centre Pompidou, Paris; Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg; and Musée d'Art moderne et contemporain (MAMCO), Geneva. Bernar Venet has also received commissions for sculptures permanently installed in Auckland, Austin, Bergen, Berlin, Denver, Paris, Neu-Ulm, Nice, Seoul, Shenzhen, Tokyo and Toulouse.

 

Venet has been the recipient of several distinguished honours, including France’s Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur.He has also been awarded the 2013 International Julio González Sculpture Prize, the 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Sculpture Center (ISC), the Prix 2017 Montblanc de la Culture, the Prix François Morellet 2019, and became a fellow of the Royal Society of Sculptors in London in 2019. The Venet Foundation, inaugurated in July 2014, aims to preserve the site of the artist’s home in Le Muy, France, conserve the collection and ensure that Venet’s work lives on after him.

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