Within the last week, the City of Denver decided that Bernar Venet’s "222.5º Arc x 5" will be permanently displayed in Commons Park near Little Raven Street about a block north of 15th Street, which is just a short walk from the Museum of Contemporary Art/Denver. It's a decision whose roots stretch back several years.
In 2004, Venet's "Indeterminate Line" was installed in front of the Colorado Convention Center on the Speer Boulevard side. Made of COR-TEN steel, which is self-sealing through a layer of rust, the two-story scribble instantly became one of the best public sculptures installed in Denver in a generation.
As a result, interest in the French-born American artist increased locally, and the NBT Charitable Trust subsequently paid to have a temporary exhibit of Venet’s work installed downtown. Among the loaned pieces was “222.5º Arc x 5,” which is also made of COR-TEN, but is much smaller -- only seven feet high – than "Indeterminate Line" and much more formal in its composition. "222.5º Arc x 5" is tightly geometric in form, instead of being wildly expressive as "Indeterminate Line" is.
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When the show ended in 2007, NBT purchased “222.5º Arc x 5” and gave it to the city of Denver. There’s nothing unusual about this, since NBT has made one significant public art gift after another over the last fifteen years or so. For instance, it donated Donald Lipski’s "The Yearling" -- the giant chair and life-sized horse on the lawn of the Central Library -- and has underwritten most of the cost of the spectacular "Lao Tzu," by Mark di Suvero, which is nearby on Acoma Plaza.
"Lao Tzu" is owned by the Denver Art Museum, the chief beneficiary of the NBT’s largesse. This is because Nancy B. Tieken, for whom NBT is named, worked as a curator at the DAM for years, and unlike most of her colleagues in that field, she not only got to select works for exhibition at the museum, but was able to afford to buy them.
As for "222.5º Arc x 5," it joins several sculptures already sited in Commons, including those by Andrew Durrord, Barbara Grygutis and Zhang Huan. -- Michael Paglia