Jan Fabre: Knight of Despair / Warrior of Beauty
When: 22.10.2016 - 09.04.2017
Where: Hermitage, Saint-Petersburg, Russia
Jan Fabre is one of the most fertile and important artists of his generation. He has created a number of new works especially for this exhibition numbering more than 200 artworks.
Jan Fabre (Antwerp, 1958), a visual artist, theatre artist and author, uses his works to speculate in a loud and tangible manner about life and death, physical and social transformations, as well as about the cruel and intelligent imagination which is present in both animals and humans.
For more than thirty-five years Jan Fabre has been one of the most innovative and important figures on the international contemporary art scene. As a visual artist, theatre maker and author he hascreated a highly personal world with its own rules and laws, as well as its own characters, symbols, and recurring motifs. Influenced by research carried out by the entomologist Jean-Henri Fabre (1823-1915), he became fascinated by the world of insects and other creatures at a very young age. In the late seventies, while studying at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts and the Municipal Institute of Decorative Arts and Crafts in Antwerp, he explored ways of extending his research to the domain of the human body. His own performances and actions, from 1976 to the present, have been essential to his artistic journey. Jan Fabre’s language involves a variety of materials and is situated in a world of his own, populated by bodies in a balance between the opposites that define natural existence. Metamorphosis is a key concept in any approach to Jan Fabre’s body of thought, in which human and animal life are in constant interaction. He unfolds his universe through his author’s texts and nocturnal notes, published in the volumes of his Night Diary. As a consilience artist, he has merged performance art and theatre. Jan Fabre has changed the idiom of the 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 earned the recognition of a worldwide audience with "Tivoli" castle (1990) and with permanent public works in sites of historical importance, such as "Heaven of Delight" (2002) at the Royal Palace in Brussels, "The Gaze Within (The Hour Blue)" (2011 – 2013) in the Royal Staircase of the Museum of Fine Arts in Brussels and his latest installation in the Antwerp Cathedral of "The man who bears the cross" (2015).
He is known for solo exhibitions such as "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). He was the first living artist to present a large-scale exhibition at the Louvre, Paris ("L’ange de la métamorphose", 2008). The well-known series "The Hour Blue" (1977 – 1992) was displayed in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna (2011), in the Musée d’Art Moderne of Saint-Etienne (2012) and in the Busan Museum of Art (2013). His research on “the sexiest part of the body”, namely the brain, was presented in the solo shows "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), and "PIETAS" (Nuova Scuola Grande di Santa Maria della Misericordia, Venice, 2011; Parkloods Park Spoor Noord, Antwerp, 2012). The two series of mosaics made with the wing cases of the jewel scarab "Tribute to Hieronymus Bosch in Congo" (2011 – 2013) and "Tribute to Belgian Congo" (2010– 2013) were shown at the PinchukArtCentre in Kiev (2013) and the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Lille (2013) and will travel to ‘s-Hertogenbosch in 2016 for the 500th anniversary celebration of Hieronymus Bosch.
As emphasized by the artist and acknowledged by critics and researchers, his art goes back to the traditions of classic Flemish art, which he admires. Peter Paul Rubens and Jacob Jordaens are important inspirations, and the visitors will (or won’t) see it for themselves. For the exhibition period, Fabre’s works will make part of the museum’s permanent exposition and enter in a dialogue with the absolute international masterpieces. The idea of the exhibition appeared after Jan Fabre had had a large scale solo exhibition Jan Fabre. L'ange de la métamorphose at the Flanders and the Netherlands Rooms at the Louvre in 2008.
At the Hermitage halls, this “sketch” will develop into a major art event that is sure to spark a great interest and many debates, which are to be held at another intellectual discussion marathon. The exhibition will come with series of lectures, master classes and round-table discussions. The exposition will air eight films, including the performance film Love is the Power Supreme (2016) featuring the artist, which was filmed in the Winter Palace in June 2016. This work will remain in the collection of The State Hermitage Collection. As a grandson of a famous entomologist, Jan Fabre widely uses the wildlife aesthetics. He uses beetle shells, animal skeletons and horns, as well as stuffed animals and images of animals in various materials. The list of unusual materials goes beyond that and covers blood and BIC blue ink.
The exhibition has been organized by the Contemporary Art Department at the State Hermitage in a frame of the Hermitage 20/21 Project. It is under patronage of V St. Petersburg International Cultural Forum.