Château de Versailles, France
1 June to 1 November 2011
1 Rue Robert de Cotte, Versailles
+33 1 30 83 78 00

For it annual and sometimes controversial showcase of contempory art, the Château de Versailles this year invited the French sculptor Bernar Venet to showcase 7 monumental works in the gardens of Versailles and the Marly Estate.

Taking over the classical and distinctly geometrical Palace gardens, which radiate the rules of perspective, Venet set out to underscore the lines, capture the coherence, and cast a new light on it – on occasion using contrast in the form of overlapping a collapsing view and the exactly drawn lines (for example, something that looks like a wreck, not lacking in form yet deliberately anti-formal, between the Bassin d’Apollon and the Grand Canal, enthroned in the par-excellence architectural gem that is Versailles).

Bernar Venet was born in 1941 in Château-Arnoux Saint-Auban, France. He lives and works in New York and Hungary. Venet’s career began in 1961 when he coated canvas with tar and exhibited mere mounds of coal as sculptures. The French artistic scene’s leading lights – Arman, César, Jacques Villeglé, etc. – promptly encouraged this avant-garde artist to take it further.

Venet is most famous for his sculptures comprising arcs providing depths to the various angles which define and compose them. There is something strikingly material about Bernar Venet’s Corten steel arcs, and they provide meaning for their surroundings. The line variants – arcs, tilting arcs, vertical arcs, collapses, etc. – add up to Venet’s vocabulary to broach the issues that sculpture has to deal with, i.e. the relationship with the body, balance, setting and so on.

Bernar Venet on exhibiting at Versailles:

"I was excited when Jean-Jacques Aillagon asked me to take over the Palace of Versailles for two reasons: because it was an amazing backdrop for my sculptures, and because it was an amazing opportunity to capture my conception of space. I found Versailles fascinating even before they started organising contemporary art exhibitions. I made my own photomontages, overlaying my sculptures and the Chateau de Versailles backdrops, long before the Jeff Koons exhibition. I kept that project secret, along with several other “perfect views” for my work. During the Versailles heyday, those projects would have been called “caprices”. The only difference is that, in my case, they were sculptural rather than architectural “caprices”.

Versailles, as I see it, is all about wide open spaces and perspectives that stretch as far as the eye can see. It is the perfect venue for my sculptures – and a real challenge to take on such a sublime, grandiose milieu. My Arcs have to blend in without fading away in the backdrop. So I have to accommodate several variables. That was why I decided to tailor new sculptures to the area’s topology and scale.

It was clear at the start that my sculptures would not be on show inside the Château, as they would unleash their full potential in the paths across Le Notre’s gardens. I am thinking about the sunrises and sunsets, and the golden light that steeps the Corten steel in red and brown hints.

The curves on my sculptures will contrast with the angular geometry in the gardens, and espouse the circular edges around the Basin d’Apollon and Grand Canal."