Striking sculptures in the grounds at Cliveden

Bernar Venet at Cliveden

Internationally acclaimed conceptual artist Bernar Venet is bringing a new perspective to the gardens at Cliveden with an exciting outdoor art exhibition. 10 large-scale sculptures, some scaling up to 9 metres high, are placed around the estate, challenging you to re-think the space which has often been home to new and striking art.

From the beginning of May to mid-October you'll have the chance to experience these pieces within the historic grade 1 listed gardens of Cliveden. From soaring vertical arcs from the moment you arrive at the property to 'fallen' arcs on the front lawns of the House, each piece is as surprising and striking as the next. 

Who is Bernar Venet?

The artist behind the project is Bernar Venet, who many consider to be the world’s greatest living French sculptor. Venet (b.1941) rose to prominence in the late sixties through the avant-garde art scene in New York. He moved to the city in 1966 and quickly became instrumental in developing a radical new proposition involving the use of mathematics and scientific language. His work has been exhibited all over the world in galleries as well as public and historic spaces such as the Palace of Versailles, the MOMA, the Champ du Mars beneath the Eiffel Tower and many other renowned locations.

This significant installation marks the first outdoor exhibition of Venet’s work in the UK since 1976, and the unveiling of a brand new piece for 2017; Seven Leaning Straight Lines (which can be found beneath Cliveden's iconic clock tower).

Why Cliveden?

Cliveden’s owners have historically been great patrons of the arts, architecture and design. Embracing the new in pursuit of edifying the buildings, collections and gardens, Cliveden’s owners viewed themselves as in tune with, if not ahead of contemporary taste; from the Duke of Buckingham’s theatrical setting for his mansion house, to William Waldorf Astor’s extravagant sculpture by Waldo Story.

Bernar Venet at Cliveden
Bernar Venet at Cliveden
Bernar Venet at Cliveden

Bernar Venet commented 'with its classical architecture, and its parterre à la française, echoing that of Versailles, Cliveden is an ideal place to present my sculptures. I am particularly happy to be returning to England, 40 years after my exhibition at London’s Institute of Contemporary Art in 1976. I am presenting ten sculptures - variations of Arcs, as well as Angles, Straight and Indeterminate Lines - that illustrate my ongoing investigations on the theme of the line, which I have been developing since 1979. The material, Cor-ten steel, produces a patina of rust that contrasts with the grass and reacts to the changing light at Cliveden, evolving from dark brown to vivid red. My sculptures have been exhibited throughout the world, and every latitude has its peculiarities and qualities, but I am very enthusiastic about the way they integrate into the English countryside. They have found their place here.'

The National Trust is working in partnership with international gallery Blain|Southern as part of the Trust New Arts programme, established to bring contemporary art to the places in the Trusts care. You can read more about this initiative here.

Cliveden’s Head Gardener, Andrew Mudge who has lead the project with Cliveden's Visitor Experience Manager: 'This exhibition is a fantastic opportunity to showcase our revered grade 1 listed gardens on an international scale'.

The Shock of the New

Running alongside the new contemporary art exhibition is ‘The Shock of the New’, 19th-century style. This is a short, self-led tour exploring some of Cliveden’s most controversial sculptures. Lord Astor was an avid collector of relics and brought many interesting sculptures to Cliveden, such as The Shell Fountain, also known as The Fountain of Love. He put this impressive piece at the end of the Grand Avenue, prime position to greet visitors as they arrived.

Our Curator Oonagh Kennedy who has developed this complementary trail highlinghing Cliveden's existing collection comments, 'Venet’s sculpture is on par with the impact of the collections at Cliveden... and the geometry of the garden design is magnified through strategically placed contemporary sculpture.'

The exhibition is included within Cliveden’s normal admission price.

The ‘Summer of Bernar Venet’ includes a retrospective exhibition of Bernar’s work at Blain|Southern’s gallery in London in June along with the unveiling of a brand new sculpture in Regent’s Park.