Jan Fabre – Belgian artist, sculptor

Jan Fabre: running away from standards

If you love postmodern art, then you probably didn’t miss the Jan Fabre exhibition that the Hermitage organized in 2016. No contemporary artist has been awarded projects of this magnitude: the main museum of St. Petersburg provided several large halls for his work. Why did the Hermitage management generously provide so much space for a sculptor and graphic artist with a controversial reputation? The main reason, according to a museum representative, is Fabre’s reverent attitude towards classical painting. All the controversial installations and performances of the Belgian artist are born in a kind of dialogue with famous works.

Jan Fabre.
Jan Fabre Belgian artist, sculptor.

The Hermitage presented 230 works by Jan Fabre, made in different genres: installations, graphics, sculptures that blew up Instagram.

The exciting aesthetics of the animal world by Jan Fabre

Jan Fabre is the grandson of the famous entomologist who published the best-selling book The Life of Insects. Therefore, it is not surprising that the artist has a special relationship with the world of fauna. To express his ideas, he chooses unusual and sometimes downright strange materials: animal and insect skeletons, shells, horns. The Belgian rebel also uses ashes from burned dollars and his own blood in his works. Fabre paints pictures with stunning inner dynamism using the most ordinary pen with blue ink. It turns out amazing. Do you agree?

Jan Fabr. The Appearance and Disappearance of Christ I (2016, blue Bic ballpoint pen, film).
Jan Fabr. The Appearance and Disappearance of Christ I (2016, blue Bic ballpoint pen, film).
The Appearance and Disappearance of Antwerp I (2016, blue Bic ballpoint pen, film).
The Appearance and Disappearance of Antwerp I (2016, blue Bic ballpoint pen, film).

“Sky of Delight” by Jan Fabre: more than a million gold beetles

“I don’t catch insects and don’t kill them,” Jan Fabre said in an interview. He understands that his works, which require several thousand borer beetle wing cases to create, raise inevitable questions among the “greens.” He said that there are countries in which goldfish are a popular food product; they are prepared in restaurants. The master entered into an agreement with several cafes and an entomological institute so that the elytra of beetles would be set aside especially for him (they are not eaten).

Works by Fabre in the interiors of the Hermitage.
Works by Fabre in the interiors of the Hermitage.
Inlays with elytra of golden beetles in the works of Jan Fabre.
Inlays with elytra of golden beetles in the works of Jan Fabre.
Sky of Delight at the Royal Palace of Brussels.
Sky of Delight at the Royal Palace of Brussels.

For the famous work “Sky of Delight,” commissioned by the Queen of Belgium, he used about a million pieces of gold. It took the artist 90 days to create this luxurious ceiling. 29 assistants helped him with the decor.

Taxidermy in Fabre’s installations

In his installations, the extraordinary artist includes objects that are strange from the point of view of ordinary people, including stuffed swans and peacocks. They were also presented at a shocking exhibition in St. Petersburg. The Russian public was not ready for this. Two installations – “Carnival of Dead Mutts” (created in 2006) and “Dead Cats Protest” (implemented a year later, in 2007). Art historians placed them in the halls of the General Staff Building, against the backdrop of paintings by old Dutch and Flemish painters. Among these works were still lifes depicting skinned game caught during the hunt.

Fabre's scandalous exhibition in the Hermitage.
Fabre’s scandalous exhibition in the Hermitage.
Carnival of Dead Mutts.
Carnival of Dead Mutts.
Inspired by Morana

Many of Jan Fabre’s installations were inspired by death. The artist claims that it plays a major role in his work and gives inspiration. He believes that life and death are inseparable. In one of his compositions he used a stuffed dog. Fabre interprets this image as follows: “Every creator is a stray dog in a past reincarnation.” When creating his shocking works, Fabre focuses on a kind attitude towards dogs and cats. Compositions with stuffed pets are a protest against consumerism; the creator urges people to think twice before getting a kitten or puppy for fun.

Jan Fabre, knight of despair, warrior of beauty, Hermitage.
Jan Fabre, knight of despair, warrior of beauty, Hermitage.
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