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BERNAR VENET SOTHEBY’S AT ISLEWORTH

A PRIVATE SALE OFFERING


INQUIRIES SOTHEBY’S 2008 A P R I V AT E S A L E O F F E R I N G

WORLDWIDE HEAD OF PRIVATE SALES

Stephane Cosman Connery + 1 212.606.7441 Impressionist & Twentieth Century Art stephane.connery@sothebys.com

VICE PRESIDENT

Elizabeth Gorayeb + 1 212.894.1187 Impressionist & Modern Art elizabeth.gorayeb@sothebys.com

CATALOGUE AND RESEARCH

Stephanie Taylor + 1 212.894.1187 Impressionist & Modern Art stephanie.taylor@sothebys.com

SENIOR PRIVATE SALE COORDINATOR

Annastacia Wollmering + 1 212.894.1119 Impressionist & Modern Art annastacia.wollmering@sothebys.com

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INQUIRIES SOTHEBY’S 2008 A P R I V AT E S A L E O F F E R I N G

WORLDWIDE HEAD OF PRIVATE SALES

Stephane Cosman Connery + 1 212.606.7441 Impressionist & Twentieth Century Art stephane.connery@sothebys.com

VICE PRESIDENT

Elizabeth Gorayeb + 1 212.894.1187 Impressionist & Modern Art elizabeth.gorayeb@sothebys.com

CATALOGUE AND RESEARCH

Stephanie Taylor + 1 212.894.1187 Impressionist & Modern Art stephanie.taylor@sothebys.com

SENIOR PRIVATE SALE COORDINATOR

Annastacia Wollmering + 1 212.894.1119 Impressionist & Modern Art annastacia.wollmering@sothebys.com

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INTRODUCTION FROM JANUARY UNTIL APRIL 2008, SOTHEBY'S PRESENTS A PRIVATE SALE RETROSPECTIVE OF THE RENOWNED SCULPTOR, BERNAR VENET. HELD ON THE LUSH GROUNDS OF ISLEWORTH GOLF AND COUNTRY CLUB IN WINDERMERE, FLORIDA, THIS IS THE FIRST COMPREHENSIVE EXHIBITION OF A SINGLE ARTIST THAT SOTHEBY’S HAS EVER PRESENTED, FEATURING A SELECTION OF THE MOST IMPORTANT WORKS OF VENET’S DYNAMIC OEUVRE. A KEY PLAYER IN THE CONCEPTUAL ART MOVEMENT OF THE 1960S AND 1970S, VENET EVOLVED A NEW AESTHETIC, USING STEEL AS HIS MEDIUM AND MATHEMATIC CONFIGURATIONS AS HIS SUBJECTS. WITH HIS MONUMENTAL, ABSTRACT FORMS, HE ACHIEVES A COMPELLING KIND OF VISUAL POETRY.

VENET'S WORK HAS BEEN EXHIBITED IN PUBLIC SPACES THE WORLD OVER — FROM NEW YORK TO SHANGHAI, PARIS TO BRASILIA. HIS WORKS HAVE BEEN ACQUIRED BY MANY OF THE MOST NOTABLE INTERNATIONAL MUSEUMS, INCLUDING THE MUSEUM OF MODERN ART AND THE SOLOMON R. GUGGENHEIM MUSEUM IN NEW YORK; THE NATIONAL GALLERY AND HIRSHHORN MUSEUM AND SCULPTURE GARDEN IN W A S H I N G T O N D. C. ; T H E M U S E U M O F C O N T E M P O R A R Y A R T I N L O S A N G E L E S ; T H E M U S E U M O F CONTEMPORARY ART IN CHICAGO, AND THE MUSEUM OF MODERN ART IN PARIS.

ON A CRYSTAL CLEAR FRIDAY MORNING DOWN AT ISLEWORTH, DURING A BREAK FROM THE INSTALLATION FOR THE SHOW, I WAS ABLE TO SIT DOWN WITH THE ARTIST FOR A VIEW INTO HIS WORLD. THE FOLLOWING PAGES PRESENT THE SPECTACULAR WORKS FEATURED AT ISLEWORTH THIS YEAR AND ALSO PROVIDE COMMENTARY BY THE ARTIST ON HIS PROCESS AND VISION FOR THESE GREAT WORKS OF ART. I HOPE YOU ENJOY THIS TRULY UNIQUE OFFERING.

STEPHANE COSMAN CONNERY SOTHEBY’S WORLDWIDE HEAD OF PRIVATE SALES

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INTRODUCTION FROM JANUARY UNTIL APRIL 2008, SOTHEBY'S PRESENTS A PRIVATE SALE RETROSPECTIVE OF THE RENOWNED SCULPTOR, BERNAR VENET. HELD ON THE LUSH GROUNDS OF ISLEWORTH GOLF AND COUNTRY CLUB IN WINDERMERE, FLORIDA, THIS IS THE FIRST COMPREHENSIVE EXHIBITION OF A SINGLE ARTIST THAT SOTHEBY’S HAS EVER PRESENTED, FEATURING A SELECTION OF THE MOST IMPORTANT WORKS OF VENET’S DYNAMIC OEUVRE. A KEY PLAYER IN THE CONCEPTUAL ART MOVEMENT OF THE 1960S AND 1970S, VENET EVOLVED A NEW AESTHETIC, USING STEEL AS HIS MEDIUM AND MATHEMATIC CONFIGURATIONS AS HIS SUBJECTS. WITH HIS MONUMENTAL, ABSTRACT FORMS, HE ACHIEVES A COMPELLING KIND OF VISUAL POETRY.

VENET'S WORK HAS BEEN EXHIBITED IN PUBLIC SPACES THE WORLD OVER — FROM NEW YORK TO SHANGHAI, PARIS TO BRASILIA. HIS WORKS HAVE BEEN ACQUIRED BY MANY OF THE MOST NOTABLE INTERNATIONAL MUSEUMS, INCLUDING THE MUSEUM OF MODERN ART AND THE SOLOMON R. GUGGENHEIM MUSEUM IN NEW YORK; THE NATIONAL GALLERY AND HIRSHHORN MUSEUM AND SCULPTURE GARDEN IN W A S H I N G T O N D. C. ; T H E M U S E U M O F C O N T E M P O R A R Y A R T I N L O S A N G E L E S ; T H E M U S E U M O F CONTEMPORARY ART IN CHICAGO, AND THE MUSEUM OF MODERN ART IN PARIS.

ON A CRYSTAL CLEAR FRIDAY MORNING DOWN AT ISLEWORTH, DURING A BREAK FROM THE INSTALLATION FOR THE SHOW, I WAS ABLE TO SIT DOWN WITH THE ARTIST FOR A VIEW INTO HIS WORLD. THE FOLLOWING PAGES PRESENT THE SPECTACULAR WORKS FEATURED AT ISLEWORTH THIS YEAR AND ALSO PROVIDE COMMENTARY BY THE ARTIST ON HIS PROCESS AND VISION FOR THESE GREAT WORKS OF ART. I HOPE YOU ENJOY THIS TRULY UNIQUE OFFERING.

STEPHANE COSMAN CONNERY SOTHEBY’S WORLDWIDE HEAD OF PRIVATE SALES

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BERNAR VENET A SCULPTOR’S PROGRESS By Barbara Rose

Bernar Venet is world-famous for his monumental steel structures of spiraling indeterminate lines and curving arcs that seem to defy gravity in their ingenious tilted balance. His development and vision are unique because they are the result of a dual heritage, reflecting both the French as well as the American approach to postminimal art. A generation younger than his close friend Arman, Venet, who was born in 1941, reacted against the

Nouveax Realisme of Arman’s contemporaries, which was part of the international pop art movement. He was drawn instead to the austere, intellectual works of the Minimalist sculptors working in America in the 1960s. At the age of twenty-four, Venet left his home in Nice for New York, where he arrived with no money and little knowledge of English and eventually met Donald Judd, Dan Flavin, Carl Andre and Sol LeWitt. In 1966, Venet began making conceptual art diagrams before the language-based, word/image dichotomies of the American conceptual artists, such as Joseph Kossuth and Lawrence Weiner. As opposed to these artists, Venet based his concepts on the theories of French semiologist, Jacques Bertin. Bertin distinguished three types of signs: the pansemic, associated with music and abstraction, the polysemic, characteristic of words and figurative imagery; and

the monosemic, which was mathematically based on

unambiguously concrete expression of a single unitary meaning. Based on Bertin’s definition of the monosemic, Venet’s idea that art is a code rather than a language lead to results other than the conventional concepts of aesthetic communication. Venet, like the American minimalist and conceptual artists, avoided the concept of the aesthetic. His decision to base his art on the impersonal laws of physics and math were an attempt to free art from the aesthetic and the designed elements of formal compositions. In this pursuit, he NICE

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BERNAR VENET A SCULPTOR’S PROGRESS By Barbara Rose

Bernar Venet is world-famous for his monumental steel structures of spiraling indeterminate lines and curving arcs that seem to defy gravity in their ingenious tilted balance. His development and vision are unique because they are the result of a dual heritage, reflecting both the French as well as the American approach to postminimal art. A generation younger than his close friend Arman, Venet, who was born in 1941, reacted against the

Nouveax Realisme of Arman’s contemporaries, which was part of the international pop art movement. He was drawn instead to the austere, intellectual works of the Minimalist sculptors working in America in the 1960s. At the age of twenty-four, Venet left his home in Nice for New York, where he arrived with no money and little knowledge of English and eventually met Donald Judd, Dan Flavin, Carl Andre and Sol LeWitt. In 1966, Venet began making conceptual art diagrams before the language-based, word/image dichotomies of the American conceptual artists, such as Joseph Kossuth and Lawrence Weiner. As opposed to these artists, Venet based his concepts on the theories of French semiologist, Jacques Bertin. Bertin distinguished three types of signs: the pansemic, associated with music and abstraction, the polysemic, characteristic of words and figurative imagery; and

the monosemic, which was mathematically based on

unambiguously concrete expression of a single unitary meaning. Based on Bertin’s definition of the monosemic, Venet’s idea that art is a code rather than a language lead to results other than the conventional concepts of aesthetic communication. Venet, like the American minimalist and conceptual artists, avoided the concept of the aesthetic. His decision to base his art on the impersonal laws of physics and math were an attempt to free art from the aesthetic and the designed elements of formal compositions. In this pursuit, he NICE

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HONG KONG

CHICAGO

was closer to the Americans, who, following Barnett Newman’s dictum to “declare the space,” eschewed composition for structures that were holistic gestalts related to nothing. In 1967, Venet frequented the Mathematics and Physics Departments at Columbia University. For the next three years, he spent most of his time with scientists, mathematicians and physicists. Returning to Paris in 1971, he taught art theory at the Sorbonne. Over the course of the next six years, he concentrated on writing and theory, but he did not produce any works of art. He returned to New York in 1976 and began to make art again, beginning with black and white drawings, paintings and reliefs of graphs or charts of lines, arcs and angles — the basis of the sculptural style he was developing. Increasingly he concentrated on the problem of the relationship between the perceptual, the conceptual and the material. These concerns lead him to develop the fully three-dimensional works in the 1970s and 1980s that were the basis of his mature style.

N E W YO R K

Venet’s first three-dimensional lines were factory-made metal rods that theoretically could be extended

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HONG KONG

CHICAGO

was closer to the Americans, who, following Barnett Newman’s dictum to “declare the space,” eschewed composition for structures that were holistic gestalts related to nothing. In 1967, Venet frequented the Mathematics and Physics Departments at Columbia University. For the next three years, he spent most of his time with scientists, mathematicians and physicists. Returning to Paris in 1971, he taught art theory at the Sorbonne. Over the course of the next six years, he concentrated on writing and theory, but he did not produce any works of art. He returned to New York in 1976 and began to make art again, beginning with black and white drawings, paintings and reliefs of graphs or charts of lines, arcs and angles — the basis of the sculptural style he was developing. Increasingly he concentrated on the problem of the relationship between the perceptual, the conceptual and the material. These concerns lead him to develop the fully three-dimensional works in the 1970s and 1980s that were the basis of his mature style.

N E W YO R K

Venet’s first three-dimensional lines were factory-made metal rods that theoretically could be extended

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indefinitely. The series of Indeterminate Lines he created beginning in 1982 are not predefined by mathematical formulas but are variable. Extrapolated into three dimensions, the graphic line becomes free and playful, antic and unpredictable. The various configurations of Indeterminate Lines from the 1980s and 1990s were made by bending and twisting long, square rods of steel with an overhead crane. The coiled spiraling line bears the memory of the struggle between the artist and his obdurate material. Typical of the Indeterminate Lines is their relationship to the Asian ideogram or calligraphy. The “scribble” of the twisting and winding pieces has its analogies in handwriting. As divergent as it is from Picasso’s and David Smith’s geometric “Drawing in Space”, they nevertheless offer a similar transparency that is characteristic of modernism but not found in traditional sculpture. Take, for example, the magnificent 36-foot high Two

Indeterminate Lines he created for La Defense in Paris in 1988 that rhythmically intertwine as if in a tango. Venet initiated his series of monumental Arcs in 1987 with the 60 x 120 foot 124.5 degree Arc commissioned for the 750th anniversary of Berlin that now occupies the Alexanderplatz. That the title is a description of the segment of a circle that the arc represents indicates Venet’s insistence on specificity as a definition of the uniqueness of each work of art. The work is titled in block letters on the surface with the number of degrees of the arc or angle. Our knowledge that although the full circle is not present is related to the concept of the indeterminate line, whose beginning and end are equally implied without being given. Their drama lies precisely in their projection of the non finito embrace of the sky above in the case of the monumental outdoor work. As his concepts developed and his technical skill, as well as his means, to make larger works improved, Venet’s lines and arcs became denser and increasingly monumental and imposing. Despite their explicit weightiness, however, they are never passive or inert. The huge vertical arcs that lead the eye from earth to sky and back are also suggestive of human relationships that are totally at odds with Venet’s initial exclusively intellectual propositions. The reductivism of inexpressiveness is replaced by the complexity of a variable, geometric basis. Venet currently fabricates the elements of the Arcs, Angles and Indeterminate Lines in a foundry in Hungary. Once the steel elements are forged, they are brought to his factory near Le Muy in the Var region of southern France. The sculptures are created through a process of rolling cold steel into a determined form. The three-dimensional lines begin as solid rods that he bends into unpremeditated configurations. Venet has described his relationship with his material as an interaction he sets into motion but cannot completely control. He continues to look for challenges while elaborating his original concepts. The actions of chance, the gravity of materials, the precariousness of equilibrium still concern him, although now he is able to explore their interaction on a colossal scale. The looped skeins of the labyrinthine Indeterminate Lines that cannot be disPA R I S L A D E F E N S E

entangled correspond to our own existential situation as we attempt to understand where the universe begins and ends. Thus, in the end, Venet forgoes his initial rejection of metaphor, placing his work not in the realm of cold calculation but in that of the precarious and unpredictable human condition.

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indefinitely. The series of Indeterminate Lines he created beginning in 1982 are not predefined by mathematical formulas but are variable. Extrapolated into three dimensions, the graphic line becomes free and playful, antic and unpredictable. The various configurations of Indeterminate Lines from the 1980s and 1990s were made by bending and twisting long, square rods of steel with an overhead crane. The coiled spiraling line bears the memory of the struggle between the artist and his obdurate material. Typical of the Indeterminate Lines is their relationship to the Asian ideogram or calligraphy. The “scribble” of the twisting and winding pieces has its analogies in handwriting. As divergent as it is from Picasso’s and David Smith’s geometric “Drawing in Space”, they nevertheless offer a similar transparency that is characteristic of modernism but not found in traditional sculpture. Take, for example, the magnificent 36-foot high Two

Indeterminate Lines he created for La Defense in Paris in 1988 that rhythmically intertwine as if in a tango. Venet initiated his series of monumental Arcs in 1987 with the 60 x 120 foot 124.5 degree Arc commissioned for the 750th anniversary of Berlin that now occupies the Alexanderplatz. That the title is a description of the segment of a circle that the arc represents indicates Venet’s insistence on specificity as a definition of the uniqueness of each work of art. The work is titled in block letters on the surface with the number of degrees of the arc or angle. Our knowledge that although the full circle is not present is related to the concept of the indeterminate line, whose beginning and end are equally implied without being given. Their drama lies precisely in their projection of the non finito embrace of the sky above in the case of the monumental outdoor work. As his concepts developed and his technical skill, as well as his means, to make larger works improved, Venet’s lines and arcs became denser and increasingly monumental and imposing. Despite their explicit weightiness, however, they are never passive or inert. The huge vertical arcs that lead the eye from earth to sky and back are also suggestive of human relationships that are totally at odds with Venet’s initial exclusively intellectual propositions. The reductivism of inexpressiveness is replaced by the complexity of a variable, geometric basis. Venet currently fabricates the elements of the Arcs, Angles and Indeterminate Lines in a foundry in Hungary. Once the steel elements are forged, they are brought to his factory near Le Muy in the Var region of southern France. The sculptures are created through a process of rolling cold steel into a determined form. The three-dimensional lines begin as solid rods that he bends into unpremeditated configurations. Venet has described his relationship with his material as an interaction he sets into motion but cannot completely control. He continues to look for challenges while elaborating his original concepts. The actions of chance, the gravity of materials, the precariousness of equilibrium still concern him, although now he is able to explore their interaction on a colossal scale. The looped skeins of the labyrinthine Indeterminate Lines that cannot be disPA R I S L A D E F E N S E

entangled correspond to our own existential situation as we attempt to understand where the universe begins and ends. Thus, in the end, Venet forgoes his initial rejection of metaphor, placing his work not in the realm of cold calculation but in that of the precarious and unpredictable human condition.

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The artist himself intervenes at every point in the creation of the large-scale works, which is particularly evident in the series of Indeterminate Lines that are the opposite of mechanistic, bearing their traces of the struggle of the sculptor with his medium. Venet does not make preparatory drawings for his sculptures, although he continues to make large drawings, as well as paintings, as a separate enterprise. Working within the parameters of the given, Venet pushes those boundaries to see how far they can be extended. The latest large scale works are increasingly powerful and dense expressions of Venet’s chosen medium and basic forms, which he may now combine and recombine in a variety of permutations. Inevitably, the relation to the landscape affects the structure of the sculpture. Hard steel contrasts with the soft green forms of nature, just as the diagonals and loops of the Indeterminate Lines contradict the cubic volumes of adjacent buildings. The huge Arcs look as if they could be rocked, thus projecting imminent movement. The towering Vertical Arcs represents a penetration of space that defies gravity. The continuing series of Indeterminate Lines are each the result of improvised, intuitive, empirical decisions and operations. As his work progressed, Venet became increasingly aware of human inability to impose a predetermined order. This perception lead him to permit chance to play a role in his art. Thus he began a dialogue between the predetermined and the indeterminate, evidenced by the disorganization or randomness in the compositional formlessness of his recent works. Venet calls his relationship with his material a game, pitting the constraints of the metal against his intentions to bend it to his will. This physical struggle is at the heart of the Indeterminate Line sculptures. The resulting configuration corresponds now to no mathematical formula: it is as unpredictable and uncontrollable as life itself.

ULM, GERMANY

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The artist himself intervenes at every point in the creation of the large-scale works, which is particularly evident in the series of Indeterminate Lines that are the opposite of mechanistic, bearing their traces of the struggle of the sculptor with his medium. Venet does not make preparatory drawings for his sculptures, although he continues to make large drawings, as well as paintings, as a separate enterprise. Working within the parameters of the given, Venet pushes those boundaries to see how far they can be extended. The latest large scale works are increasingly powerful and dense expressions of Venet’s chosen medium and basic forms, which he may now combine and recombine in a variety of permutations. Inevitably, the relation to the landscape affects the structure of the sculpture. Hard steel contrasts with the soft green forms of nature, just as the diagonals and loops of the Indeterminate Lines contradict the cubic volumes of adjacent buildings. The huge Arcs look as if they could be rocked, thus projecting imminent movement. The towering Vertical Arcs represents a penetration of space that defies gravity. The continuing series of Indeterminate Lines are each the result of improvised, intuitive, empirical decisions and operations. As his work progressed, Venet became increasingly aware of human inability to impose a predetermined order. This perception lead him to permit chance to play a role in his art. Thus he began a dialogue between the predetermined and the indeterminate, evidenced by the disorganization or randomness in the compositional formlessness of his recent works. Venet calls his relationship with his material a game, pitting the constraints of the metal against his intentions to bend it to his will. This physical struggle is at the heart of the Indeterminate Line sculptures. The resulting configuration corresponds now to no mathematical formula: it is as unpredictable and uncontrollable as life itself.

ULM, GERMANY

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BERNAR VENET SOTHEBY’S AT ISLEWORTH


BERNAR VENET SOTHEBY’S AT ISLEWORTH


IW Sculpture Book - 1