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.
Bernar Venet, 1961–2021. 60 Years of Sculpture, Painting and Performance
On view from 29 January 2022 in Berlin, this exhibition looks at all facets of the internationally-renowned French artist’s 60-year oeuvre, including over 150 works across the reappropriated Tempelhof Airport’s hangars 2 and 3.Read more
Monumental Arc sculptures by Bernar Venet on display in Paris
Exhibitions and Art Fairs
Bernar Venet at Grosvenor Square
Art Basel Miami Beach 2022
The works in this group presentation demonstrate the translation of drawing into the three-dimensional; towering monumental installations protrude from the walls, and curl up from floors, while the negative space of the picture plane is variously architecturally structured, or revealed through light and shade.
The exhibition includes works by Peter Blake, Enrico Castellani, Michael Craig-Martin, Ian Davenport, Jean Dubuffet, Barry Flanagan, Peter Halley, Hans Hartung, Frank Stella and Bernar Venet among others.
One of Bernar Venet’s iconic Indeterminate Line sculptures, created in rolled steel, shows the French artist’s approach to conceptualising and configuring space.
Mgarap Bangke, a 2004 wall-based sculpture by Frank Stella, similarly towers in a tangle of industrial materials, which the artist has coerced into curving organic forms. Moulded sections of dark carbon fibre are supported by circular loops of unpainted stainless-steel tubing and geometric rails.
A new painting by Ian Davenport, titled Yellow and Purple (Double), is also displayed, portraying the artist's use of colour as a tool to delineate space through controlled movements of vibrant paint.
Frieze New York
This diverse presentation of artworks spans several decades, with pieces connecting through a multitude of points.