Bernar Venet, Sculptor of Iconic Steel Arcs, Gives Biggest Exhibition Yet
Over 150 of the artist's works now fill hangars 2 and 3 of Berlin's Tempelhof Airport.
Bernar Venet in front of Arcs in Disorder: 4 Arcs x 5 (2008). Corten steel 410 x 415 x 90 cm, each. Photo: Daniel Biskup, Courtesy: Stiftung für Kunst und Kultur Bonn ©Bernar Venet, ADAGP 2022.
Bernar Venet, 1961–2021: 60 Years of Sculpture, Painting & Performance opens at Tempelhof Airport from 29 January until 30 May. The exhibition was organised by the Foundation for Art and Culture in Bonn, the same organisation behind the Diversity United show that exhibited at Tempelhof before travelling to Moscow last year.
It's the most comprehensive retrospective yet for Bernar Venet, who received the International Sculpture Center's Lifetime Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Award in 2016.
'I was asked only four months ago by Walter Smerling to make this exhibition,' Venet told Ocula Magazine. 'It has not been difficult to assemble all these works because most belong to the art Foundation that I created, and are coming only from the South of France.'
'Nobody was buying my work when I was younger, so I could keep many pieces for myself, and today we don't have to contact collectors and museums to put together such a large exhibition,' he said.
Venet typically emphasises the formal properties of his work. What you see is what you see: steel wrought into scribble-like coils, French fry-like piles, and partial circles like the ribs of ships.
And yet the materials he favours—such as tar, coal, asphalt and steel—are politically charged. These are materials that built the post-industrial world but also devastated the environment and accelerated colonialism and economic exploitation.
Venet said that while he has used these materials, adding wood and cardboard to the list, 'I never considered these connotations you mentioned. The materials I worked with were the cheapest and most readily accessible, and I displayed them as such.'
'In 1963, it was a means for me to present a sculpture without a specified shape, following the influence of gravity and other particularities in the history of sculpting,' he continued. 'The materials I use are the most appropriate for answering my own sculpture-related inquiries.'
'It's worth noting that the steel bases I buy for my sculptures are labeled as biodegradable when I receive them,' he added. 'It will take some time, but let us assume that it will occur.' —[O]