Flemish institutions to keep Jan Fabre's art work, despite his sentence

He was once considered one of Belgium’s biggest post-war artists. Now he will be remembered by the #MeToo movement. The Flemish artist and theatre producer Jan Fabre was sentenced this Friday 29 April to a suspended prison of 18 months for acts of violence, harassment and inappropriate sexual behaviour against his work colleagues. Despite the sentence, political and cultural authorities in Flanders agree his works of art should remain.

In Nieuwpoort, his statue of a large golden turtle entitled "Searching for Utopia" will stay in the streets. “People have already taken countless pictures with the statue,” says the Mayor Geert Vanden Broucke (CD&V).

According to the mayor, the statue is separate from the artist as a person.

"We do distance ourselves from Jan Fabre, but the statue remains. I see the artist and the work as two different entities," he adds. "There are a lot of artists who have already firmly walked off the line. If we have to remove all their works, we are still working on it for a long time."

The Cathedral of Our Lady in Antwerp has decided not to remove "The man who carries the cross", another sculpture by Fabre. Bart Paepen, pastor of the cathedral also thinks that "the work takes precedence, not the person of the artist who created it." The sculpture has been permanently in the cathedral since 2015.

Deputy director Elisabeth Michiels explains in a press release that the decision was made in consultation with various visitor groups. "The sculpture invites an attitude of ideological openness and dialogue, without prejudice to the relevance of that call."

The Municipal Museum of Contemporary Art (SMAK) in Ghent is not removing "The man who measures the clouds" for the time being.

"Removing images is to silence the debate," says the director Philippe Van Cauteren.

Nevertheless, he wants to organise a broad public debate on issues such as abuse of power and undesirable behaviour in September or October. The director plans to involve other institutions, such as the Gezelle Museum in Bruges, which also has a statue of Fabre.


© Belga Photo (BELGASTOCKS)


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