Bernar Venet had a religious upbringing and aspired to become a missionary. However, with the support of a local artist, he became interested in painting and drawing at a young age. After several attempts at gaining a formal education in the arts, he worked as a stage designer at the Nice City opera in 1959. In 1961, Venet joined the army and started to establish his style as an artist. During this period, he worked with tar creating his art with his feet in a gestural style that eventually developed into black monochromatic paintings, eschewing all forms of action painting. After his service, Venet returned to Nice where he established his studio and continue to explore with tar, coal as well as with photographic medium. His first sculpture Coal Pile has a restrained and minimal quality.
Subsequently, he became familiar with the work of Arman and some of the New Realists in Paris such as Cesar, Hains and Villegle and starts creating sculptures with cardboards. He, then, exhibited alongside New Realists and Pop artist’s works in the Salon Comparaisons at the Museum of Modern Art, Paris. In 1966, Venet went to New York and took inspiration from Minimalism in his art (cfr. Tubes).
In 1967, Venet moved to New York and shared Arman’s studio. Around this period, Venet became interested in logic and mathematics and produced works around these concepts.
In between 1971 and 1976, Venet did not create any art and started teaching “Art and Art Theory” at the Sorbonne in Paris. He resumed his artistic activity in 1976 exhibiting works at Documenta VI in Kassel in the 1977.
During the 1980s, he continues to develop his art along logical lines. He also composed, choreographed and imagined the costumes and designs for Jean-Louis Martinoty’s ballet Graduation.
In the 1990s, Venet creates his series of work Indeterminate Lines and subsequently his Arcs which are exhibited in different places over the years including Versailles amidst different locations around France.
He is an french artist that explores many media, materials and forms of expression. From the early sixties, Venet’s use of industrial drawings and mathematical diagrams in painting has been a major contribution to Conceptual Art. Venet has lived in New York for many years, and practices as an artist around the world.
For Venet, being an artist means not only painting or sculpting, but also to speculate-in art, science, philosophy, mathematics, geometry, and music. He is an internationally recognized painter, sculptor, and composer of concrete music (technologically manipulated sound), and his main interest in art is to raise questions, to push his work further and further, and to search for new approaches.
Venet has been the recipient of many awards, prizes, and honors for his career as an artist of merit. Among these are a grant from the National Endowment of the Arts, the Grand Prix des Arts de la Ville de Paris, and Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur, France’s highest decoration. Venet has been a featured artist at the Venice Biennale, and been written about by such art critics as Thomas McEvilley and Donald Kuspit.