Jan Fabre (center) in 2008
Fabre studied at the Municipal Institute of Decorative Arts and the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp. Between 1976 and 1980 he wrote his first scripts for the theatre and made his début performances.
Between 1976 en 1980 he wrote his first texts for the theatre and did his first solo performances. During his 'money-performances' he burned money and wrote the word 'MONEY' with the ashes. In 1977 he renames the street where he lives to "Jan Fabre street" and fixes a commemorative plaque "Here lives and works Jan Fabre" to the house of his parents, by analogy to the commemorative plate on the house of Vincent Van Gogh in the same street. In 1978 he makes drawings with his own blood during the solo performance 'My body, my blood, my landscape'. In 1980 'The Bic-Art Room' he had himself locked up for three days and three nights in a white cube full of objects, drawing with blue Bic ballpoint pens as an alternative to Big art Established in 1986, Troubleyn/Jan Fabre is a theatre company with extensive international operations, with its home base in Antwerp, Belgium.
From 1980 he began his career as a stage director and stage designer:
- Theater geschreven met een K is een kater (1980)
- Het is theater zoals te verwachten en te voorzien was ("It is Theatre as to be Expected and Foreseen" 1982)
- De macht der theaterlijke dwaasheden ("The power of theatrical madness", Venice Biennale 1984)
- Das Glas im Kopf wird vom Glas (1987)
- Prometheus Landschaft (1988)
- Das Interview das stirbt... (1989)
- Der Palast um vier Uhr morgens... A.G. (1989)
- Die Reinkarnation Gottes (1989)
- Das Glas im Kopf wird vom Glas (1990)
- The Sound of one hand clapping (1990)
- Sweet Temptations (1991)
- She was and she is, even (1991)
- Wie spreekt mijn gedachte ... (1992)
- Silent Screams, Difficult Dreams (1992)
- Vervalsing zoals ze is, onvervalst (1992)
- Da un’altra faccia del tempo (1993)
- Quando la terra si rimette in movimento (1995)
- Three Dance-solos (1995)
- A dead normal woman (1995)
- Universal Copyrights 1 & 9 (1995)
- De keizer van het verlies (1996)
- The very seat of honour (1997)
- Body, Body on the wall (1997)
- Glowing Icons (1997)
- The Pick-wick-man (1997)
- Ik ben jaloers op elke zee… (1997)
- The fin comes a little bit earlier this siècle (But business as usual) (1998)
- Het nut van de nacht (1999)
- As long as the world needs a warrior’s soul (2000)
- My movements are alone like streetdogs (2000)
- Je suis Sang (conte de fées médiéval) (2001)
- Het zwanenmeer (2002)
- Swanlake (2002)
- Parrots & guinea pigs (2002)
- Je suis sang (2003)
- Angel of death (2003)
- Tannhäuser (co-production) (2004)
- Elle était et elle est, même (2004)
- Etant donnés (2004)
- Quando L'Uomo principale è una donna (2004)
- The crying body (2004)
- The King of Plagiarism (2005)
- History of Tears (2005)
- I am a Mistake (2007)
- Requiem für eine Metamorphose (2007)
- Another Sleepy Dusty Delta Day (2008)
- Orgy of Tolerance (2009)
- The Servant of Beauty (2010)
- Preparatio Mortis (2010)
- Prometheus–Landscape II (2011)
- "Tragedy of a Friendship" (2013)
Fabre is famous for his Bic-art (ballpoint drawings). In 1990, he covered an entire building with ballpoint drawings.
He explores the relationships between drawing and sculpture. He also makes sculptures in bronze (among them The man who measures the clouds and Searching for Utopia) and with beetles.
His decoration of the ceiling of the Royal Palace in Brussels Heaven of Delight (made out of one million six hundred thousand jewel-scarab wing cases) is widely praised. In 2004 he erected Totem, a giant bug stuck on a 70-foot steel needle, on the Ladeuzeplein in Leuven.
In 2008, Jan Fabre's The Angel of Metamorphosis exhibition was held at the Louvre Museum.
On 26 October 2012, several media reported how during a shoot in the Antwerp town hall for a forthcoming film on Fabre, living cats were thrown repeatedly several meters spinning into the air, after which they made a hard landing on the steps of the entrance hall. Animal welfare executive chairman Luc Bungeneers said he was having a meeting with his party chairman when he heard howling cats. "To my horror, we found cats were being assaulted in the name of art", Bungeneers said. "It went on for several hours." The filming was eventually aborted after protests from the crew's own technicians. Later that day, Fabre claimed all cats were still in good health and it was a conspiracy of the political party NVA. Mr. Fabre has received 20,000 emails slamming his act. He has also been attacked seven times by men carrying clubs whilst out jogging in the park and been forced to sleep in a different location every night. Antwerp's deputy mayor for animal wellbeing and the animal rights organisation Global Action in the Interest of Animals also launched complaints about Mr Fabre's controversial act.
On February 2016, Jan Fabre was appointed by the Greek Ministry of Culture as the Creative Director of the annual Athens – Epidaurus Festival. He resigned less than two months later, on the 2nd of April 2016, after a huge controversy over his plan to turn Greece’s major arts festival into “a tribute to Belgium” and devote eight of the festival’s ten productions to those from his homeland.
In September 2016 Fabre made an attempt to not break cyclist Eddy Merckx's 1972 hour record at the Tête d'Or Velodrome in Lyon. Fabre completed a total of 23 km in an hour, compared to Merckx's record of over 49 km. The attempt was commentated on by Merckx, fellow cyclist Raymond Poulidor, and veteran cycling commentator Daniel Mangeas and was performed as the opening of his "Stigmata" retrospective exhibition organised by the Musée d'art contemporain de Lyon. Fabre described the attempt as "how to remain a dwarf in the land of giants".
- Giacomelli, Fabien (30 September 2016). "Jan Fabre en selle devant Eddy Merckx et Raymond Poulidor" [Jan Fabre in the saddle in front of Eddy Merckx and Raymond Poulidor]. Le Progrès (in French). Retrieved 4 October 2016.
- "Jan Fabre parvient à ne pas battre le record du monde de l'heure d'Eddy Merckx" [Jan Fabre manages not to break the world hour record of Eddy Merckx]. RTBF (in French). 30 September 2016. Retrieved 4 October 2016.
- "Jan Fabre, plus cannibal qu'Eddy Merckx" [Jan Fabre, more cannibal that Eddy Merckx]. Le Temps (in French). 30 September 2016. Retrieved 4 October 2016.
- Jan Fabre at Glasstress - Biennale of Venice
- Jan Fabre Troubleyn
- Jan Fabre Angelos
- Jan Fabre on the 52nd Biennale of Venice
- The case of Jan Fabre
- Jan Fabre and Lisbeth Gruwez photos from Quando L'Uomo principale è una donna
- Jan Fabre Artnet Page
- A Beautiful, Bug-Infested Ceiling
- Jan Fabre’s Art Conquers Florence With Bronze Turtle, Shiny Insects by Pia Capelli, Blouin Artinfo, May 12, 2016