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Arts

Massive Bernar Venet statue graces Germany's former capital

He known for oversized steel statues in public spaces. Now French artist Bernar Venet's latest work has been unveiled in Bonn. "ARC '89" is a nod to German reunification and changes in Bonn after being the capital.

Fourteen bent steel beams protrude 17 meters (over 55 feet) into the sky. The enormous sculpture with the cryptic name "ARC '89" weighs an impressive 42 tons.

The crescent-shaped steel beams bent in an 89-degree angle are a reference to the year 1989, which plays a special role in German history: The Berlin Wall fell on November 9, leading to the reunification of Germany in the following year. Bonn had been the capital of West Germany, but Berlin in the East later became the capital of the reunified country.

"ARC '89" stands for renewal and change - precisely what Bonn has experienced since 1989.

"Rusty Spaghetti" became the nickname of the colossus even before its unveiling on June 5. Bernar Venet specifically designed his work for this space - a roundabout on Bonn's Museum Mile, just opposite the Art and Exhibition Hall. In times of diminished city funds, the work is on loan to the city of Bonn and financed by a 10-year loan. At the end of the decade, the local politics will decide what happens next.

From stage designer to sculptor

No question, the steel sculptures have made the name Bernar Venet a hallmark - an outstanding contemporary sculptor. "ARC '89" is just one of many of this genre.

Bernar Venet in France Copyright: Getty Images/AFP/G. Julien

Bernar Venet in front of one of his sculptures

Bernar Venet was born in 1941 in Château-Arnoux in France. At the age of 10 he devoted himself to painting. In 1961 he began to work artistically. Previously, he had studied at the Municipal School of Formative Arts in Nice. Until 1863, Venet worked as a stage designer at the opera in the southern French city. In 1971, he took a five-year hiatus in which he devoted himself to art issues and taught art and theory at the Sorbonne University.

Restart and shift in emphasis

In this phase of life Venet sought answers to physical and mathematical questions. The line became an artistic challenge for him. This is reflected in his sculptures because by means of the line in the steel sculptures he explores time, space, motion, system, and randomness.

When Venet resumed his artistic activity in 1976 he made paintings and wood reliefs and also created his first steel sculptures. He also made several excursions into the world of ballet, music, photography, and film. However, his main focus is the sculpture. Venet won the 1989 "Grand Prix des Arts de la Ville de Paris" and took part in Documenta VI and VII in Kassel and the 38th and 53rd Venice Biennales.

Venet's publically commissioned sculptures can certainly not go unnoticed. They can be found in New York, Nice, Luxembourg and Berlin - and now also in Bonn.

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