In February this year, the International Sculpture Center awarded artist and sculptor Bernar Venet the 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award for his outstanding contributions to the field of landscape sculpture. Just two weeks ago, I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Venet and experiencing his world renowned landscape sculpture first hand.
It was 1983 when Venet established the basic structure for his “Indeterminate Lines” steel structures and I was drawn to them at first sighting. Being near the fluid lines without specific form, something so rigid as solid steel, is compelling physically and emotionally, almost electrifying to the touch.
I became a raving fan of Venet’s when I met the French born conceptual artist this summer. I was fortunate to be a dinner guest of the energetic, charming, and fascinating artist at Le Muy, the site of his Venet Foundation in Provence France this summer and home to many of his landscape sculpture.
While Venet’s landscape sculpture can be seen in museums and important galleries all over the world, his paintings, photographs, films poetry, and music are less well known. Venet says “I work in all these different areas because I’m never satisfied.” A consummate creative experimentalist and intrepid artist in a surprising variety of media, surely the best viewing spot is in the artist’s personal landscape and sculpture park.
Venet was inspired to create Le Muy, as a home for several of his grand scale landscape sculpture and for his foundation, by fellow artist Donald Judd. Judd created his personal gallery in Marfa, Texas and included many works by his artist friends. In Le Muy, the collection also includes works by major artists of the American minimal and conceptual movements, Dan Flavin, Richard Long, and Richard Chamberlain as well as works by Arman, César, Sol LeWitt, On Kawara, Robert Barry, Lawrence Weiner, and Carl Andre. Frank Stella designed a chapel especially for the site.
According to Venet “With the Venet Foundation, I am trying to make more widely known the adventure my friends and I experienced during an extraordinary period—the 1960s and after—in the United States, a country that opened doors for me from the moment I set foot in it at the age of twenty-four. While I’ve had and still have the great privilege of living with them, the works I’ve created and those I’ve acquired do not belong to me. They were produced for cultural reasons and as such they belong to everyone, they are for everyone’s eye, pleasure and knowledge.”
Venet is the most internationally exhibited French artist with 30 public sculpture exhibitions and monumental works permanently installed in cities including Auckland, Austin, Beijing, Berlin, Cologne, Denver, Geneva, Neu-Ulm, Nice, Paris, San Francisco, Seoul, Tokyo, and Toulouse. Venet has been the recipient of many awards including the Grand Prix des Arts de la Ville de Paris and Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur, France’s highest decoration.