LE MONDE DE BERNAR VENET, VENET IN CONTEXT
When Bernar saw Frank Stella’s large composite reliefs in the artist’s studio, he immediately sensed that he was in the presence of important work. He thought he might hang one in Le Muy and eventually left with six pieces without knowing where he was going to place them. Their imposing size (each around 450 x 250 x 150 cm) discouraged interested institutions from taking them on loan since access to such monumental works would be impossible in practical terms.
Thus, a building had to be constructed especially to house the works. During discussions between the two artists, the idea of a chapel quickly took shape. Such a building is part of the tradition of artists’ chapels, with, for instance, Matisse’s chapel in Vence, not far from Le Muy. Bernar himself designed the interiors and stained glass for a chapel in his native village. But the initial model remains the Rothko Chapel in Houston, where the entire space is covered with paintings by Mark Rothko.
The building – in the case of the Stella Chapel – is a chapel in the ecumenical sense of the term, that is, above all a space for meditation where art and thought take precedence over religion. Frank Stella designed the hexagonal building such that its diameter is fifteen meters and a work of art hangs on each of its walls. Every edge of those walls meets empty space, leaving visitors free to wander through the chapel while opening it up completely to the natural setting.