Bernar Venet was born in April 1941 in the Alpes Maritimes, France. He excelled in drawing and painting at school and, at the age of 11, after discovering a book by Renoir, he decided to follow this career path. Unable to gain a formal education in art, in 1959, he joined the Nice Opera as a stage designer at the same time painting in his free time.
In the 60s, Venet became well known for his amorphous installations made by piling up loose gravel, coal or asphalt and industrial paintings made from cardboard reliefs or tar. In 1967, he moved to New York and was inspired by his contemporary minimalist sculptors, Venet began to produce freestanding and wall-mounted sculptures in steel. Venet describes his sculptures as being about… ‘how metal resists. They are a test of strength, a battle between myself and the piece of metal. My work is self-generated; nothing around me serves as a particular inspiration. In the1989, Venet purchased a large property including an 18th-century mill and a massive hangar which had until the 60s been used to manufacture regulator systems for railway tracks, set in four hectares of grounds.
This idyllic spot, with the river Nartuby running through the property, is in Le Muy, near Draguignan, France. Initially, the property was used as a studio and to house his and other artists’ work, but a visit to the Judd Foundation in Marfa, Texas, USA, inspired Venet to open his park to visitors to exhibit his growing collection of sculptures. Today, it has been renovated and extensively enlarged, while a 200m2 gallery has been added, to create the Venet Foundation which was opened in 2014.
It serves to exhibit and archive (of) his and numerous other artists’ works, holding over 100 works by fellow post-war giants including, Arman, Donald Judd, Sol de Witt, Carl Andre, Jean Tinguely, On Kawara and Dan Flavin. Many of these pieces have been acquired as a result of ‘exchanges’ amongst friends. In 2001, Frank Stella personally designed and created a hexagonal ‘chapel’ for Venet fitted with six large composite reliefs and, most recently, James Turrell’s ‘Inspire the light’, a skyspace installation, was constructed.
Visits are by appointment only. Please see the website: https://www.venetfoundation.org/ for details.