Bernar Venet rose to prominence in the late 1960s through the avant-garde art scene in New York. It is Venet’s insatiable curiosity and desire to push both his own limits and the frontiers of art, that have led to him making a significant impact on the development of contemporary art. His 1963 installation, Tas de Charbon, (Pile of Coal) is widely recognised as the first sculpture without a specific shape and also as the first recorded instance of an unmanipulated natural material presented as a work of art.
He moved to New York in 1966 and after four productive years in Soho, Venet broke off his artistic activities as part of a plan he had defined years before. He devoted himself to theory and teaching at the Sorbonne in Paris, and was the subject of a retrospective exhibition in New York at only 30 years old. He resumed his art-making practice in 1976.
Focussing now on all variants of the line as a fundamental subject, arcs, angles and both straight and indeterminate lines have come to define his aesthetic, with mathematical investigations of chance and chaos providing a conceptual grounding to how his sculptures are realised. From this point Venet navigates significant issues such as equilibrium, control and the relationship with environment.
He created the first of his seminal Indeterminate Lines by experimenting in a series of wood reliefs. He soon developed these formalist sculptures in the medium of steel, a material central to his theories, specifically Venet says that his sculptures are about how the material resists. It is a test of strength – a battle between myself and the piece of metal.
Venet was invited by Mayor Jacque Chirac to present twelve sculptures from his Indeterminate Lines series on the Champ de Mars, beneath the Eiffel Tower, Paris in 1994; which went on to tour 35 cities around the world. In 2011 Venet became the fourth contemporary artist to be offered a solo exhibition in the grounds of the Chateau de Versailles. He has been awarded France’s highest decoration, the Chevalier de la Legion d’honneur, Commandeur dans l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres from the French Ministry of Culture and was the 2013 recipient of the International Julio Gonzalez Sculpture Prize from Valencia’s IVAM and the Grand Prix des Arts de la Ville de Paris. In February 2016 the International Sculptural Centre in New York presented him with the Lifetime Achievement Award for his exemplary contributions to the field of sculpture.
Bernar Venet is represented in the UK by Blain Southern, London. Venet’s Nine Unequal Angles can be viewed at the entrance of Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens.