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Jan Fabre

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Jan Fabre
Jan Fabre (center) in 2008
Born (1958-12-14) 14 December 1958 (age 65)

Jan Fabre, born on 14 December 1958, in Antwerp, Belgium, is a versatile artist known for his contributions to theater, literature, and visual arts. With a career spanning nearly four decades, Fabre has established himself as an influential figure in the artistic landscape.[1][2][3][4][5]

Consilience Artist[edit]

Jan Fabre often refers to the concept of ‘Consilience’ – the unity of knowledge – a concept that was elaborated by William Whewell (1794–1866) and further developed by the American entomologist, biologist and philosopher Edward O. Wilson (1929–2021) in his book 1998 Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge.

Fabre describes himself as a consilience artist, explaining: ‘It’s a merging of elements from different disciplines guided by fact-based theory and practice across disciplines. An understanding of entomology can, for example, lead to new interpretations within the visual arts. Or vice versa – you see connections (For example across art, theatre, science, religion, medicine), you make new interpretations. This is consilience.' [6] Fabre identifies with this idea of consilience, taking a multifaceted and far-reaching approach. Thanks to this undertaking, Fabre offers fresh interpretations to the world of visual art, theatre and literature [6]

Visual Art (Angelos)[edit]

In his visual oeuvre, Fabre has developed a unique and coherent universe; a highly personal visual language with recurring symbols and motifs.[1][6] Whilst studying in Antwerp at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts and the Municipal Institute for Decorative Arts and Crafts,[1] where he "developed a profound love of beauty and its spiritual power” - Jan Fabre [2][6][7]. Curious by nature he became influenced by the manuscripts of entomologist Jean-Henri Fabre (1823-1915), so states he "became fascinated by the world of insects at a young age".[6]

The iconic artworks featuring the iridescent wing-cases of the jewel beetle are an example of how Fabre wields metamorphosis as one of his driving forces.[8] Thanks to its external skeleton and description in age-old mythologies, the jewel beetle has a long life, both physically and spiritually.[9] The mosaic artworks in which the artist uses the wing shells as a base are also created to endure.[2] Examples include in the ceiling installation ‘Heaven of Delight’ in Brussels’ Royal Palace (2002),[1][2][6][10] in the three permanent altarpieces in AMUZ,[11][6] the former St. Augustine’s Church in Antwerp (2018), or the site-specific work ‘Tribute to a free spirit (2020) at the Fondation GGL Helenis, Montpellier.[12]

He wrote his first scripts for theatre between 1976 and 1980 and also did his first solo performances. During his 'money-performances', he burned money and wrote the word 'MONEY' with the ashes. In 1977, he renamed the street where he lived to "Jan Fabre Street" and fixed a commemorative plaque "Here lives and works Jan Fabre" to the house of his parents, analogous to the commemorative plate on the house of Vincent van Gogh in the same street. In 1978 he made drawings with his own blood during the solo performance 'My body, my blood, my landscape'. From 1980, Fabre began his career as a stage director and stage designer.

Fabre became known for his Bic-art (ballpoint drawings). In 1980, in '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. In 1990 he covered an entire building with ballpoint drawings.[citation needed]

Fabre also explored relationships between drawing and sculpture creating sculptures in bronze (among them The man who measures the clouds and Searching for Utopia) and with beetles. He decorated the ceiling of the Royal Palace in Brussels with one million six hundred thousand jewel-scarab wing cases for his work Heaven of Delight. In 2004 he erected Totem, a giant bug stuck on a 70-foot steel needle, on the Ladeuzeplein in Leuven (BE).[citation needed]

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. Merckx, fellow cyclist Raymond Poulidor, and veteran cycling commentator Daniel Mangeas commentated the event,[13] which was performed as the opening of his "Stigmata" retrospective exhibition organised by the Musée d'art contemporain de Lyon.[14] Fabre described the attempt as "how to remain a dwarf in the land of giants".[15]

Theatre (Troubleyn)[edit]

Jan Fabre makes a clean break with the conventions of contemporary theatre by introducing the concept of ‘real-time performance’ and explores radical possibilities as a means of resurrecting theatre and dance.[16][17][18] Fabre has been writing his own plays since 1975.[19][20][21] The acuteness and reserve with which he employs language demand innovative solutions which have also appeared at the hand of other directors who have worked with his texts.[19][22]

In 1982, his production titled ‘This is theatre as was to be expected and foreseen’ challenged established conventions within European theater circles,[23] a trend that continued with subsequent works like ‘The Power of Theatrical Madness’ performed at the Venice Biennale in 1984.[19][22][24]

As a choreographer, Fabre explored innovative approaches to classical dance with pieces such as ‘The Dance Sections’ (1987) and ‘The Sound of One Hand Clapping’ (1990), for the Frankfurt Ballet.[25][26][27] These choreographies served as precursors to the operatic trilogy ‘The Minds of Helena Troubleyn’ which he created in collaboration with Polish composer Eugeniusz Knapik.[27]

In 1986 he established the Troubleyn/Jan Fabre theatre company with extensive international operations; its home base is Antwerp, Belgium.[28]


In September 2018, twenty former members of Fabre's performing arts company, Troubleyn/Jan Fabre (Antwerp, Belgium) accused him of sexual harassment, abuse of power, and assault. These accusations strongly diminished Fabre's standing in the artistic community.[29]

On 28 June 2021, Belgiums' Labour Auditor, acting in his capacity as prosecutor since the alleged offenses were committed in the workplace, indicted Fabre on charges of violence at work and sexual harassment.[30][31]

On Friday 29 April 2022 Jan Fabre was sentenced by a Belgian court to 18 months (without imprisonment) for 5 "violations of the law on the welfare of workers" and, in the case of a woman, of “assault on decency” (i.e. assault for a kiss 'with the tongue' ).[32] While Jan Fabre won't appeal his conviction, 175 former employees and colleagues have sided with the artist/theatre-maker and spoken out about the incorrect portrayal of Fabre as a 'racist, violent molester.'[33]


The heaven of delight inside the Hall of Mirrors of the Royal palace, a part can be seen above the fireplace.

On 26 October 2012, several media outlets reported on a shoot in the Antwerp town hall for a forthcoming film exploring Jan Fabre’s artistic practice, living cats were thrown into the air, after which they made a landing on the steps of the entrance hall (which was covered in a protective layer). The owner of the cats and vet was present during the filming. Later that day, Fabre claimed all cats were still in good health.[34][35][36][37]

Then in February 2016, Jan Fabre was appointed by the Greek Ministry of Culture as the Creative Director of the annual Athens – Epidaurus Festival.[38] He resigned less than two months later, on 2 April 2016, after 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.[39]

In October 2016, the Russian State Hermitage museum staged a Fabre exhibition which drew a lot of criticism from visitors and institutions such as the Russian Orthodox Church.[40][41] Stuffed animals in strange poses sparked outcry among Russian social media network users who launched a campaign under the hashtag #позорэрмитажу, or "Shame on you, Hermitage". The museum then organized an event to meet the public and explain the exhibition.[42] The artist confirmed that the animals used were taken from roads where they had been killed and denied any accusations by critics of cruelty.[citation needed]

“The animals featured in this installation were found near Antwerp, because many people in Belgium, Holland and France buy dogs and then abandon them on the street during the summer and so they are killed. This installation is essentially a kind of a homage to these animals...I think this exhibition also talks about the power and the force and the vulnerability of humankind and animals.” – Jan Fabre [6][42]


Theatre productions[edit]

  • 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)
  • Swan lake (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)
  • Drugs kept me alive (2012)
  • Tragedy of a Friendship (2013)
  • Attends, Attends, Attends... (Pour mon Père) (2014)
  • Mount Olympus. To Glorify the Cult of Tragedy. A 24-hour performance. (2015)
  • Belgium Rules/Belgian Rules (2017)
  • The Generosity of Dorcas (2018)
  • The Night Writer - Italy (2019)
  • Resurrexit Cassandra (2019)
  • The Night Writer - Russia (2019)
  • The Night Writer - Serbia | Nocni Pisac (2020)
  • The Night Writer - Lithuania | Nakties Rasytojas (2021)
  • The Fluid Force of Love (2021)
  • The Night Writer - Slovenia | Nocni Pisec (2021)
  • The Night Writer - Croatia | Nocni Pisac (2021)
  • Resurrexit Cassandra (with Sonia Bergamasco) (2021)
  • Not Once (An art installation with film - featuring Mikhail Baryshnikov) (2021)
  • Elle etait et elle est, meme (2022)
  • Simona, the gangster of art (2023)
  • Peak Mytikas (On the top of Mount Olympus) An 8-Hour Performance (2023)
Searching for Utopia (Nieuwpoort)


  1. ^ a b c d "Jan Fabre | Widewalls". www.widewalls.ch. Retrieved 12 April 2024.
  2. ^ a b c d "Jan Fabre". SMAK. Retrieved 12 April 2024.
  3. ^ "Exhibition « Jan Fabre » – Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium". fine-arts-museum.be. Retrieved 12 April 2024.
  4. ^ "Jan Fabre". BUILDING (in Italian). Retrieved 12 April 2024.
  5. ^ "Jan Fabre". Glasstress (in Italian). Retrieved 12 April 2024.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h Fabre, Jan; Celant, Germano; Arblaster, Paul; Ball, Gregory; Paris, Franco (2014). Jan Fabre, Stigmata: actions & performances 1976–2013 (First ed.). Milano, Italy: Skira Editore. ISBN 978-88-572-2124-3. OCLC 855905252.
  7. ^ "Jan Fabre, the warrior of beauty who dialogues with the great masters of the past". www.finestresullarte.info. Retrieved 22 May 2024.
  8. ^ Hall, James. "Jan Fabre".
  9. ^ "Jan Fabre | Mucciaccia Gallery".
  10. ^ "Palace Ceiling Covered in Jewel Beetles". Dornob | Architecture, Interior and Furniture Design. 11 November 2009. Retrieved 23 June 2024.
  11. ^ "Jan Fabre". AMUZ. Retrieved 23 June 2024.
  12. ^ "Jan Fabre - Fondation GGL" (in French). 6 September 2019. Retrieved 23 June 2024.
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ "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.
  15. ^ "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.
  16. ^ "Performance Artist - Jan Fabre". Performance Art Resources. Retrieved 1 July 2024.
  17. ^ "FEATURED ARTIST: JAN FABRE". ITSLIQUID. Retrieved 1 July 2024.
  18. ^ "Jan Fabre | Theatre Olympics 2016". www.theatreolympics2016.pl. Retrieved 1 July 2024.
  19. ^ a b c Cassiers Edith, Rutgeerts Jonas, van den Dries Luk, De Somviele Charlotte, Gielen Jan, Hallemans Ann, Van Moorsel Annouk, Roussel Nathalie. "Physiological performing exercises by Jan Fabre: an additional training method for contemporary performers" (PDF). Theatre, dance and performance training (6:3(2015)): 273–290 – via ISSN 1944-3927.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  20. ^ "Book Promotion – From Act to Acting: Jan Fabre's Guidelines for the Performer of the 21st Century – fim". fim.edu.rs. Retrieved 1 July 2024.
  21. ^ "CPPM OPEN CLASS: Troubleyn Jan Fabre". Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre. Retrieved 1 July 2024.
  22. ^ a b Dries, Luk van den; Crombez, Thomas (2010). "Jan Fabre and tg STAN: Two Models of Postdramatic Theatre in the Avant-Garde Tradition". Contemporary Theatre Review. 20 (4): 421. ISSN 1048-6801.
  23. ^ "This is theatre like it was to be expected and foreseen - Jan Fabre / Troubleyn". Kaaitheater. Retrieved 4 July 2024.
  24. ^ "FEATURED ARTIST: JAN FABRE". ITSLIQUID. Retrieved 4 July 2024.
  25. ^ highlike.org. "JAN FABRE | highlike". Retrieved 4 July 2024.
  26. ^ "Fabre goes Forsythe : The Sound of One Hand Clapping". Etcetera (in Flemish). Retrieved 4 July 2024.
  27. ^ a b Wesemann, Arnd (22 December 1997). "Jan Fabre: Belgian theatre magician". TDR (Cambridge, Mass.). 41 (4): 41–63.
  28. ^ Fabre, Troubleyn / Jan. "Jan Fabre / Troubleyn". www.troubleyn.be. Retrieved 30 June 2024.
  29. ^ "Belgian Artist Jan Fabre Is Accused of Sexual Harassment by 20 Former Members of His Troupe". Hyperallergic. 20 September 2018.
  30. ^ "The artist Jan Fabre to face charges of violence and sexual harassment". vrtNWS. 28 June 2021.
  31. ^ de Jong, Bella (26 March 2022). "The Belgian artist Jan Fabre on facing up to 5 years in jail for sexual harassment". The Brussels Times.
  32. ^ Ponte di Pino, Oliviero. "Il dionisiaco nell'epoca del politicamente corretto | ateatro.it". www.ateatro.it. Retrieved 24 April 2024.
  33. ^ Somviele, Charlotte de. "Ex-medewerkers en collega's in de bres voor Fabre". De Standaard (in Flemish). Retrieved 25 April 2024.
  34. ^ "In elkaar geslagen Jan Fabre wijst met beschuldigende vinger naar N-VA". www.knack.be. 2 November 2012.
  35. ^ ikerremans (26 October 2012). "Katten krijsen in het stadhuis (video)". Gazet van Antwerpen.
  36. ^ jrosquin (26 October 2012). "Stad overweegt klacht tegen kattengooiende filmcrew". Gazet van Antwerpen.
  37. ^ ikerremans (26 October 2012). "Jan Fabre: "Ik ben een grote dierenvriend"". Gazet van Antwerpen.
  38. ^ "Jan Fabre appointed Greek Festival artistic director – Kathimerini". www.ekathimerini.com.
  39. ^ Stefanou, Eleni (5 April 2016). "Greek arts festival in turmoil as artists rebel over curator's 'Belgian' vision". The Guardian – via www.theguardian.com.
  40. ^ "Hermitage faces outcry over installations featuring dead animals". Belgium Sun. 22 November 2016. Retrieved 27 November 2016.
  41. ^ "Art exhibition with dead animals strung up from the ceiling opens in Russian museum". Metro UK. 16 November 2016. Retrieved 27 November 2016.
  42. ^ a b "Provocative Jan Fabre's Exhibition at the Hermitage Went Under Fire". St. Petersburg Travel Guide. 27 November 2016. Retrieved 27 November 2016.

External links[edit]