Troubleyn | Jan Fabre

About Jan Fabre


With a career spanning some forty years, Jan Fabre (b. 1958, Antwerp) is regarded as one of the most innovative figures on the international contemporary art scene. As a visual artist, theatre artist and author he creates an intensely personal atmosphere with its own rules, laws, characters, symbols and motifs. Curious by nature, and influenced by research carried out by the entomologist Jean-Henri Fabre (1823-1915), Jan Fabre became fascinated by the world of insects and other creatures at a very young age.

In the late 1970s, while studying at the Municipal Institute of Decorative Arts and the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp, he began exploring ways of incorporating the human body into his research. His own performances and actions, from 1976 to the present, have been essential to his artistic journey. Jan Fabre’s visual language exists within an idiosyncratic world, one that is populated by bodies that define natural existence through a permanent balancing act on the thin line between life and death. Metamorphosis and the constant interaction between animal-human and human-animal are key concepts in Fabre’s visual canon. His spiritual and physical universe unfolds within his literary texts, his nocturnal notes or so-called ‘Night Diaries’.

As a consilience artist, Jan Fabre has merged performance art and theatre. He has changed the idiom of theatre by bringing real time and real action to the stage. After his historic eight-hour production "This is theatre like it was to be expected and foreseen" (1982) and four-hour production "The power of theatrical madness" (1984), he raised his work to a new level in the exceptional and monumental "Mount Olympus. To glorify the cult of tragedy, a 24-hour performance" (2015).

Jan Fabre enjoys worldwide recognition thanks to such works as ‘The Man Who Measures the Clouds’ (1998), which can be seen at various sites (SMAK, Ghent; deSingel, Antwerp; Brussels Airport; 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa), the ‘Tivoli’ castle in Mechelen (1990) and permanent public works in prominent locations, including ‘Heaven of Delight’ (2002) at the Royal Palace in Brussels, ‘The Gaze Within (The Hour Blue)’ (2011-2013) in the royal staircase at the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, the installation of ‘The Man Who Bears the Cross’ (2015) in the Cathedral of Our Lady in Antwerp and, in the same city, the three altarpieces after Rubens, Jordaens and Van Dyck in St. Augustine’s Church/AMUZ. Like ‘Heaven of Delight’, these altarpieces are made with the wing cases of jewel beetles. Jan Fabre paints with light by replacing traditional oil paint with one of the most durable of all natural materials.

The two famous series of mosaic panels in which he addresses the controversial history of Belgium, ‘Tribute to Hieronymus Bosch in Congo’ (2011-2013) and ‘Tribute to Belgian Congo’ (2010-2013), were shown for the first time in their entirety at the PinchukArtCentre in Kiev (2013). They were subsequently exhibited at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Lille (2013) and in ‘s-Hertogenbosch in honour of the 500th anniversary of Hieronymus Bosch (2016).






Key solo exhibitions by this versatile Belgian artist include ‘Homo Faber’ (KMSKA, Antwerp, 2006), ‘Hortus / Corpus’ (Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo, 2011) and ‘Stigmata. Actions and Performances’, 1976–2013 (MAXXI, Rome, 2013; M HKA, Antwerp, 2015; MAC, Lyon, 2016; Leopold Museum, Vienna, 2017; CAAC, Sevilla, 2018). Jan Fabre was the first living artist to present a large-scale exhibition at the Louvre, Paris (‘L’ange de la métamorphose’, 2008). His well-known ensemble ‘The Hour Blue’ (1977-1992) travelled to the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna (2011), the Musée d’Art Moderne in Saint-Etienne (2012) and the Busan Museum of Art (2013), amongst other museums.

With ‘Spiritual Guards’ (2016) Jan Fabre unfolds a multifaceted exhibition of sculpture, drawing, installation, performance, and digital media across three historic sites in the city of Florence — Forte Belvedere, Palazzo Vecchio and Piazza della Signoria. Jan Fabre was invited by Dr Mikhail Piotrovsky to create a large-scale exhibition at The State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. For this project, entitled ‘Jan Fabre. Knight of Despair/Warrior of Beauty’ (2016-2017), the artist entered into a dialogue with the masters of Flemish art: Rubens, Jordaens and Van Dyck – his inspirations. The solo exhibition ‘Glass and Bone Sculptures 1977-2017’, was a collateral event of the 57th edition of the Venice Biennale (2017). During the Palermo – Italian Captial of Culture 2018, MondoMostre organized ‘Jan Fabre. Ecstasy & Oracles’ (Monreale – Agrigento, Sicily, 2018) as a collateral exhibition of Manifesta 12.  

From June to November 2018, Fondation Maeght presented an overview of Fabre’s research on the brain, with the revealing title: ‘Ma nation, l’imagination’. His on-going research into the brain, which he calls the most sexy part of the body, began several years earlier with ‘Anthropology of a Planet’ (Palazzo Benzon, Venice, 2007), ‘From the Cellar to the Attic, from the Feet to the Brain’ (Kunsthaus Bregenz, 2008; Arsenale Novissimo, Venice, 2009), ‘PIETAS’ (Nuova Scuola Grande di Santa Maria della Misericordia, Venice, 2011).

Selection of upcoming projects:

-solo exhibition ‘Jan Fabre. Oro Rosso’, Museo di Capodimonte, opening March 28 2019

-special project Venice Biennale 2019 : opening May 6 2019 

Curriculum Vitae