A visit to Bernar Venet, the most popular artist of France


Who: Bernar Venet, Sculptor
Where: Le Muy, France

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Steel giants: the 200-ton installation “Effondrement of Arcs”

When I recently spent a birthday weekend in the South of France with my friends, art collectors and patrons from Recklinghausen, I met a special encounter: The French artist Bernar Venet, one of the internationally outstanding sculptors of the present. His monumental steel sculptures adorn the metropolises around the world – from New York to Paris. Since 1987 the steel arch “Arc de 124,5°” has been located in Berlin at Urania place, a gift from France for the 750th anniversary of the city.

When I look at Bernar Venet’s colossal steel sculptures, the question arises as to how the individual, heavily torn, intertwined fragments are bent. Probably hardly by hand. Bernar Venet’s answer: “With the crane.” Accompany me and Bernar Venet on an exclusive walk through his art foundation in Provence.

 

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In the former factory hall you can see early works by Bernar Venet from 1961 to 1966, pictures and reliefs from 1976 to 1984 as well as the “Indeterminate Surfaces”, which were created between 1995 and 1999

Three years ago Bernar Venet, who decided in 1963 to remove the “d” from his first name, founded his foundation. The artistic retreat of the sculptor, who, alongside Pierre Soulages, Martial Raysse and Robert Combas, is one of France’s post-war empires with the highest auction results, is off the beaten track of the Côte d’Azur in Le Muy, a small town above Cannes and Saint-Tropez.

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“I work 28 hours a day, nine days a week,” says Bernar Venet, who exhibited at the Documenta in Kassel in 1977 and the following year at the Venice Biennale

On the site of a former factory and a water mill from the 16th century, Bernar Venet found a place that allowed him to combine three things: firstly, to exhibit his gigantic works in a hangar-like hall and a sculpture garden. Secondly, to show his important, minimalistic art collection for the first time publicly. And thirdly, to produce such large formats as never before.

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My hosts Bernar and Diane Venet

Bernar Venet and his wife Diane, with “Venet Foundation”, made it their task to make accessible and show the work of other artists friends like Donald Judd, Sol Lewitt and Dan Flavin, to the public. On our walk through the five-acre property he bought in 1989, we walk past work by Anthony Caro, Carl Andre, Richard Long, Tony Cragg, Tony Smith, Philip King, Robert Morris, Larry Bell, and Ulrich Rückriem – and the chapel built by Frank Stella for the sculpture garden and decorated with metal reliefs.

In 2017 also the US artist Fred Sandback is honored with the solo exhibition “Pedestrian Space”. And occasionally the collection of Bernar Venet is supplemented by new exhibits. The largest work in the park was created by Venet himself: a 200-ton sculpture of steel arches, which, by the way, are not the result of a mathematical calculation, but are followed by chance. There I stand, dive into the landscape of the South of France, listen to the sound of the river, notice the chirping of the crickets, and can not turn my gaze from these steel giants.  BvH

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In the former factory, the visitors always open up to surprising vistas

Visit to the Venet Foundation:

Guided tours are offered in the summer (until 15 September) Thursday afternoons and all-day Fridays. Duration of guided tours approx. 1.5 hours. Only possible with online pre-registration on pre-defined dates. Entrance fee 15 Euros. More information at venetfoundation.org.

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The Solo Exhibition 2017:

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In the gallery, the solo exhibition “Pedestrian Space” by the US artist Fred Sandback is shown in 2017 …

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… view from the gallery to Bernar Venet’s monumental works outside

The Sculpture Park:

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View to the former factory, today the center of the Bernar Venet Foundation – infront the work of the artist

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The pool is a design by the artist François Morellet in 2008

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“Each of my works starts with a 30 to 40 centimeter model. I can see what is artistically interesting. I am looking for aspects that have not existed before, and how I can push the boundaries of sculpture a bit.”

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Venet, who lived in New York for almost five decades, described his basic concept as “undefined lines”

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Nestled in a romantic park in the South of France …

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… is the 16th century mill, which contains parts of Bernar Venet’s collection as well as his private rooms

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The Endre, a 29 kilometer river in Le Muy, a place in Provence. The romantic park of the Bernar Venet Foundation stretches on both sides

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A tunnel with an “aww”: Through the corrugated hallway of rusty Corten steel, visitors reach the Endre river, which runs along the five-hectare park

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“When the sun is at the right angle, there are hundreds of light bubbles glittering inside,” says Bernar Venet, describing the walls perforated by holes

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In the studio of Frank Stella, Bernar Venet was inspired by six imposing wall reliefs: “I had a huge respect for him, he was already a giant back then. Still, I wrote a number on a piece of paper, Stella added 40 percent, and I collected the sum within a year.”

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Now the reliefs are part of this chapel in the sculpture park and Stella the best friend of Venet

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“The collection represents the history of our lives”, says Venet about his works shown here and those of his friends, who are all unsalable

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“There are many people who are able to experience access to art only in the public space and discover with pleasure, what contemporary art is and can do.”

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A new addition: This work of art will still find its place in the sculpture park

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Larry Bell: Something Green, 2017, laminated glass, 244 x 1219 x 244 cm

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Robert Morris: Labyrinth, 2012, Fencing, 213 x 1371 x 427 cm

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A work of iron chains by the French artist Arman, a close friend of Bernar Venet – the 16th century mill in the background

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Steel giants: The biggest work in the sculpture park comes from Bernar Venet himself

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The tree trunks are produced in China with a lead alloy, each weighing six tons. Other objects are also produced in France and Hungary

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Everything is ready for a lunch with friends on a perfect summer day in the South of France

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Bernar et moi: Merci beaucoup!

Contact Bernar Venet:

bernarvenet.com

 

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