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Frederik Meijer Gardens opens Bernar Venet steel-sculpture exhibit

October 31, 2012
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Bernar Venet exhibit opens at Frederik Meijer Gardens
 Bernar Venet. 220.5° Arc x 15, 2006. Cor-ten steel, 161.4 inches (each). Courtesy Archives Bernar Venet, New York

Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park has the honor of hosting five large-scale works by internationally renowned French artist Bernar Venet.

The exhibit opened to the public Oct. 30 with a lecture by Venet, who spoke as part of the Master Lecture Series. His works will be on display outdoors for a full year and are located adjacent to the Leslie E. Tassell English Perennial Bulb Garden. The steel sculptures are between eight feet and 13 feet in height.

The exhibit is considered unique due to its duration as well as the involvement of the artist. Joseph Becherer, vice president and chief curator of horticulture and sculpture for the Gardens, pointed out that when Venet’s works were shown along both Park Avenue in New York and Michigan Avenue in Chicago, it was only for a few months.

“Unlike placing the work in the gallery where the lights and the colors of the wall remain constant, when you put works of sculpture outdoors they change,” Becherer said. “Every season, different times of day, if it’s snowing, if it’s raining, if it’s humid or hot or cold, it’s really an opportunity to see the artist’s works and experience the work in a multitude of ways.”

Venet, now in his 70s, is in his fifth decade as an artist, which began with drawing and painting before soon turning to sculpture. His first sculpture, “Pile of Charcoal,” is considered his most famous masterpiece. He has since gone on to create many critically acclaimed works, many of which reside in private and permanent collections around the world, including at Frederik Meijer Gardens, which has as part of its permanent collection two pieces from his Indeterminate Line series.

“The sculptures are very much about pure form,” Becherer said. “They are not very ornamented or decorative. They are about the purity of the form, whether it’s a series of circles, or a series of lines or a series of scrolling lines. It’s really about the importance of form and design.”

Becherer said the exhibit is a major opportunity for all of Grand Rapids, not just the Gardens.

Venet’s work also is on display in Singapore as part of a solo exhibition at the Art Plural Gallery, and as part of a group show at the Brooklyn Museum in New York. Later next month his works will be part of a group show in Bordeaux, France.

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