Bernar Venet Is Poised to Steal the Stage at Art Basel Hong Kong With a New Exhibition and Special Performance

The venerable French Conceptualist has struck a chord with the Hong Kong art world.

Bernar Venet, The Straight Line and Its Trace, a performance the the Musée d’Art modern et d’Art contemporain, Nice, on May 31, 2004. Photo © Muriel Anssens.
Bernar Venet, The Straight Line and Its Trace, a performance the the Musée d’Art modern et d’Art contemporain, Nice, on May 31, 2004. Photo © Muriel Anssens.

With all the energy of an emerging art world capital, Hong Kong has no shortage of star artists trying to make their mark on the city. That’s never been more apparent than it is this week, during Art Basel Hong Kong.

Add Bernar Venet to the top of that list.

With a new exhibition at de Sarthe gallery, a special performance at Sotheby’s, and a strong presence at the fair to boot, the pioneering French Conceptualist is primed to dominate the week.

Bernar Venet, <i>The Straight Line and Its Trace</i>, a performance the the Musée d’Art modern et d’Art contemporain, Nice, on May 31, 2004. Photo © Muriel Anssens.

Bernar Venet, The Straight Line and Its Trace, a performance the the Musée d’Art modern et d’Art contemporain, Nice, on May 31, 2004. Photo © Muriel Anssens.

The first of the bunch, an exhibition of new works titled “IN RELATION: PERFORMANCE / SCULPTURE / PAINTING,” opens today at de Sarthe’s Hong Kong outpost—one of the first international galleries to have a presence in the city. As its title suggests, the show brings together all three media in the kind of heady hybrid that has long been Venet’s signature.

For the show, Venet has suspended large metal beams from the gallery’s ceiling and covered them in paint. In a series of performances that took place earlier this week, the artist tilted, pushed, and swung the hanging bars around the space, creating abstract paintings that look like large Rorschach blots. Unlike previous versions, which were rendered with black paint, he introduced color this time around, adding another layer of complexity to his cerebral creations.

Bernar Venet in Paris, 2011. Photo: Raphael GAILLARDE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images.

These works, while new, speak to innovations Venet developed earlier in his career—ones that had a lasting impact on the course of 20th century art history. For those that are new to his work—and there might be some—the show will give a sense of who, as an artist, Venet is, and why he’s so important.

“Bernar Venet has taken many of the tenets of Minimalism and found a way to incorporate them within the larger context of Conceptual art—particularly through his use and study of the line,” explains Willem Molesworth, director of de Sarthe in Hong Kong. “His exploration of this most fundamental visual element across sculpture, performance, and painting has altered how we perceive everything from the pictorial plane to the landscapes and cityscapes that surround us.”

The artist will follow up the gallery show with a performance at Sotheby’s Hong Kong during its cocktail reception for its spring sales this Friday, March 29. The performance, titled The Steel Bar and the Pictorial Memory of The Gesture, will again find Venet in an improvised dance with the metal bar, producing a painting in the process. The final work will be auctioned off next Monday, April 1, during the auction house’s Contemporary art evening sale. All proceeds from the sale will go to the Foundation for AIDS Research—a charity Venet has worked with before.

Bernar Venet, 12 Acute Unequal Angles (2016). Courtesy of de Sarthe.

Finally, Venet’s free-standing sculptures—recognized as some of his most influential works—will also be on view at de Sarthe’s booth at Art Basel Hong Kong.

The heightened interested in Venet from the southeastern Asian market isn’t news to the gallery, but for them, it simply speaks to the quality of his work and the importance of his career.

“Venet’s artwork is extremely relevant to today, just as it always has been,” says Molesworth. “It is a testament to human thought and potential. His artwork embraces the complex, the chaotic, the indeterminate, and portrays it in such a stunning way that it immediately strikes a deep sense of contemplation within viewers. His artwork resonates with both the uncertainty of our times and the incredible achievements we nonetheless continue to realize.”

Bernar Venet, <i>The Straight Line and Its Trace, </i>. Performance, Musée d’Art modern et d’Art contemporain, Nice, France, May 31, 2004. © Photo: Muriel Anssens.

Bernar Venet, The Straight Line and Its Trace, . Performance, Musée d’Art modern et d’Art contemporain, Nice, France, May 31, 2004. © Photo: Muriel Anssens.

IN RELATION: PERFORMANCE / SCULPTURE / PAINTINGis on view through May 18, 2019 at de Sarthe.

Art Basel Hong Kong will be on view from March 29–31, 2019 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center.


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