For the first time, Sotheby’s will present an exhibition of a single artist, the renowned sculptor, Bernar Venet, on the lush grounds of the Isleworth Golf & Country Club in Windermere, Florida, outside Orlando. From January through April 2008, approximately twenty-five monumental sculptures will showcase the artist’s work of the last two decades, highlighting some of his most distinctive themes. These include Arcs, Straight Lines, Angles and Indeterminate Lines, many of them for sale. Executed by Venet at a foundry and ironworks in the Vosges mountains, they range in size from 6 to 35 feet, and have been referred to as “drawings in space.” Venet’s bold sculptures have been exhibited in galleries, museums and public places around the world, from Paris to Nice, Madrid to Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires to Tel Aviv, Berlin to Hong Kong, Seoul to Shanghai. In the United States, his work has been prominently seen in New York, Washington D.C., Miami, San Francisco, Denver, Austin and Chicago.
Bernar Venet said, “I’m thrilled with Sotheby’s offer to present some of my more important, recent works in the spectacular setting they have chosen. For an artist like myself, living in both the United States and Europe, Sotheby’s Worldwide seems the perfect sponsor for an exhibition of this type.”
Stephane Cosman Connery, Director of Private Sales Worldwide and Senior Vice President of Sotheby’s Impressionist and Twentieth Century Art Department, commented: “I have long been a fan of Bernar Venet’s visually arresting work. For our fifth annual sale of monumental sculpture at Isleworth, I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to give our clients a retrospective glimpse of Venet’s work, the high quality of which was greatly admired by visitors to the previous Isleworth exhibition, resulting in immediate sales. We are thrilled that he has chosen to participate with Sotheby’s on this exciting project, in this magnificent location.”
The approximately twenty-five sculptures on exhibit at Isleworth give an overview of the artist’s work of the last two decades. As a key player in the conceptual art movement of the 1960s and 70s, in which ideas take precedence over forms, Venet evolved a new aesthetic with steel as his medium and mathematic configurations as his subject. In doing so he achieves visual poetry of an abstract kind. In Three Indeterminate Lines, 2003, Three Indeterminate Lines, also 2003, Venet offers variations on a coiled line; in 215.5° Arc x 21, 2005 and 5 Arcs x 5, 2002, he illustrates different ways in which a circle can be left incomplete. Prominently included in this overview is Random Combination of Indeterminate Lines, 1990, consisting of thirty-seven twisted and contorted metal bars in assorted positions, vertical and horizontal.
Born in 1941 in Château-Arnoux-Saint-Auban in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, France, Venet’s talent was evident in his drawing at an early age. He learned about the work of successful artists through art books that his mother bought him, and he was particularly attracted to the heroes of the Modern era. At 17, Venet moved to Nice in order to study at the Ville Thiole, the municipal art school, followed by on-the-job training as a theatre set designer. Over the course of the next two decades he explored painting, poetry, film and dance, and was attracted, in particular, to pure science as a subject for art. 1979 marked a turning point in Venet’s career, when he began a series of wood reliefs, Arcs, Angles, Diagonals, and created the first of his Indeterminate Lines. That same year, he was awarded an artist grant by the National Endowment for the Arts. In 1984, Venet started working at the Atelier Marioni, a foundry and ironworks in the Vosges region of France. Five years later, he acquired a steel factory in Le Muy in the Var region of France, where he fabricated and installed his work on the surrounding property. In 1994, Jacques Chirac, then the Mayor of Paris, invited Venet to present twelve sculptures from his Indeterminate Line series on the Champ de Mars.
The Paris venue developed into a world tour. In 2003, the number of Venet’s solo exhibitions amounted to no less than seventeen. Since then, his works have been seen around the world and have been acquired by such notable museums as The Museum of Modern Art (New York), The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (New York), The National Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.), the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden (Washington, D.C.), the Museum of Contemporary Art (Los Angeles, California), the Museum of Contemporary Art (Chicago, Illinois), the Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit, Michigan) and Yale University (New Haven, Connecticut). Bernar Venet has also received commissions for sculptures permanently installed in Norfolk, Austin, Paris, Nice, Berlin, Bergen, Shenzhen, Tokyo, Denver, Neu Ulm and Toulouse. This year, Venet’s solo exhibitions include retrospectives at The National Museum of Contemporary Art near Seoul, the Museum Küppersmühle für Moderne Kunst in Duisburg, and the Busan Museum of Modern Art, South Korea, as well as sculptures exhibited throughout the cities of Bordeaux and Metz, France.
The artist’s sculpture has been the subject of a number of books written by internationally-acclaimed art critics, including Thomas McEvilley (Bernar Venet, Artha Benteli, 2002), Philippe Bata (L’hypothèse de l’arc, Editions Un, Deux, Quatre, 2005), Jean-Louis Schefer (Hommage à l’acier, Assouline, 2007) and Thierry Lenain (Bernar Venet, Flammarion, 2007). Bernar Venet lives with his wife Diane in New York, Le Muy and Paris.