Bernar Venet

b. 1941

Bernar Venet (b.1942, Château-Arnoux, France), is an artist best known for his curved sculptures in metal which appear to defy gravity with their mathematical precision and swooping forms.


Venet initially planned to become a missionary, but his prodigious early talents for drawing and painting, and his invitation at the age of 11 to exhibit a painting in the Salon de peinture in Paris, led him to become an artist.


Whilst serving an obligatory twenty-two months in military service, Venet continued making work, and began painting with tar, utilising his feet to create a wholly gestural style. These works were the beginning of what would become his black monochromatic tar paintings, often created on cardboard. Venet then created the seminal Pile of Coal "Tas de charbon” (1963) which is now regarded as one of his most famous works. The sculpture is understood to have ruptured conventional thought around the boundaries of making art, and the definition of what constitutes contemporary art.


1979 was a seminal year for the artist, having recently begun a series of wood reliefs – ‘Arcs, Angles, and Straight Lines’ – he created the first of his Indeterminate Lines and was awarded a grant by the National Endowment for the Arts. It was at this point that the line became his fundamental subject and the process of mathematics converging with investigations into chance and its ensuing chaos formed the basis of his sculptural creation.


In an interview with Stéphane Custot, Venet stressed the cultural character of artworks and within this the inextricability of transmitting ideas attached to novel content. He honed in on the role of the artist and conveying knowledge, elucidating on his desire “to convey ideas that are partly my own but which are also the ideas of artists of my generation, a form of thinking I belong to and in which I am looking to show my differences and the specific originality of my work.”


Venet’s work has been exhibited extensively throughout Europe, the United States, South America and Asia both in solo museum shows, as well as in major art events such as the Kassel Documenta in 1977, and the Biennales of Paris, Venice and São Paulo. To date he is the most internationally exhibited French artist with 30 public sculpture exhibitions and monumental works permanently installed in cities including Auckland, Austin, Shenzhen, Berlin, Cologne, Denver, Geneva, Neu-Ulm, Nice, Paris, San Francisco, Seoul, Tokyo, and Toulouse.


Venet is the recipient of many awards including the Grand Prix des Arts de la Ville de Paris and Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur, France’s highest decoration. In February 2016, the International Sculpture Center will award Venet the 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award for his exemplary contributions to the field of sculpture.

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