My life in 5 exhibitions: Bernar Venet

The artist, who is known for his striking, large-scale sculptures, recalls five shows that shaped his career

The artist, who is known for his striking, large-scale sculptures, recalls five shows that shaped his career

by Bernar Venet
'Meta-Mathematik', Fotos und Schrift, Museum Haus Lange, Krefeld, Germany, 5 April - 18 May 1970, Photo: Archives Bernar Venet

In the late 60s, the Museum Haus Lange in Krefeld was the most cutting-edge museum in the world. When Dr. Wember asked me to mount a retrospective – keeping in mind that at this time, not a single gallery was taking a chance on me – it was the most fantastic opportunity to show my work.

New York Cultural Center, New York, USA, 11 November 1971 - 3 January 1972, Photo: Archives Bernar Venet

A year later, the New York Cultural Center offered me the chance to present the works from my conceptual art period (1966-1970) in a very visible New York museum. My retrospective of this body of work – quite radical in those days – borrowed from mathematicians and theoretical scientists, was curated by Donald Karshan.

'The Arc Hypothesis', Arsenale Novissimo, 53rd Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy, 6 June - 20 September 2009, Photo: Pat Verbruggen

Making a strong demonstration with my sculpture at the Venice Biennale in 2009 was a good opportunity since I was able to present, for the first time, an Effondrement (or ‘Collapse’) amongst other configurations of Arcs, in such a visible setting. It is the richness of the possibilities inherent in these works that are so important to me: the destabilization of the whole, and the dispersion of the elements of the sculpture, the simultaneous embodiment of order and chance, and, in short, the law of entropy.

'Venet à Versailles', Château de Versailles and Château de Marly, France, 2011, 1 May - 1 November 2011, Photo: Archives Bernar Venet

I was afforded the opportunity of dealing with the scale of Versailles. I installed seven sculptures in-situ, but the standout for me was the 22-meter tall Arcs that framed the equestrian statue of Louis XIV on the Place d’Armes at the entrance to this famed site. The contrast between the neutral and sober geometry of my works and the baroque traditionalism of the environment was a great challenge, and ended up being well received.

Bernar Venet, Rétrospective 2019-1959, Musée d’art contemporain (MAC), Lyon, France, 21 September 2018 - 6 January 2019, Photo: Blaise Adilon

The most comprehensive retrospective to date on my work, showcasing works from across 60 years of my artistic production. Founding director and curator Thierry Raspail offered me three full floors of the museum, which allowed for a perfect demonstration of the conceptual and formal evolution of my work throughout my career.

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