Bernar Venet

b. 1941

A master of many materials and mediums, Bernar Venet is among the foremost French conceptual artists. Venet was born in Chateau-Arnoux, France, in 1941. As a child, Venet loved to draw and paint. Venet went to college at the Ecole Libre and Groupe Scolaire Paul Lapie, and later completed a year of formal training at Municipal Art School of Nice. After graduating, he was hired as the set designer of the Opera de Nice. This was the beginning of Venet’s lifelong interest in music and dance, and he would later compose, choreograph, and design the costumes for the ballet Graduation.

Initially, Venet worked in the unique mediums of tar and coal starting in 1961. For his Fetishist series, Venet smeared tar expressively across a canvas and created loose mounds of coal. Transitioning from natural materials to man-made assemblages, Venet sculpted relief pieces using cardboard. In 1967, Venet moved to New York and collaborated with scientists at Columbia University to fashion precise blueprints and theoretical drawings as art. Inspired by the Minimalist movement, in 1979, Venet began to craft monumental works in industrial materials. These seductive works have a clear antecedent in the sculptures of Tony Smith, Donald Judd, and Richard Serra. For his illustrious career in art, Venet has been awarded the Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur award, the Grand Prix des Arts de la Ville de Paris, and most recently, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Sculpture Center in February of 2016. His sculptures have been exhibited at the Chateau de Versailles, the Venice Biennale, and Documenta in Kassel.

My sculpture is based on concepts that appear to be divergent, but which in the context of my activity organize themselves in a complementary manner: order and disorder, the determinate and indeterminate. 

—Bernar Venet