Jan Fabre unveils new installation in Brussels’ Museums of Fine Arts


A permanent Jan Fabre exhibition opens in the Old masters' section of the Brussels' Museum of Fine Arts.

Installation is a continuation of Fabre’s The Hour Blue series

The next time you’re in the Old Masters section of Brussels’ Royal Museums of Fine Arts, you might feel like more eyes are watching you than just those of Rembrandt’s portrait of Nicolaas van Bambeeck. And much larger eyes, in fact.

When the museum decided to use the space for contemporary art, they didn’t have to think long to decide on Fabre, whose work is famously inspired by classical art and who is a master at integrating his work in dialogue with established settings. Fabre was the first-ever artist to be invited by Paris’ Louvre – in 2008 – to incorporate his multi-media works into the institution’s permanent collection, in an exhibition called The Angel of Metamorphosis.

This installation might be smaller in scope, but it’s an attention grabber nonetheless. Even from the bottom of the stairs, one of the largest of the seven panels is impossible to ignore – a huge pair of eyes appear from the deep blue canvas, practically daring you to mount the stairs. When you do, you’ll find four more pairs of eyes on other panels – and they’re not all  human. They are looking at each other, and they are looking at you – a bit of a turn of events in our normal interaction with works of art.

There’s nowhere to go once you’re at the top of the stairs, so the landing acts as a kind of mini exhibition room. You’ll have to rotate to see all the pieces – because of the narrowness of the space, you can’t see them all at once.

The installation is a continuation of Fabre’s The Hour Blue series, which explores death and rebirth. All of them were created wholly or in part – including those of The Gaze Within – with a blue Bic ballpoint pen. “Within these poetical transformations,” says the museum in a statement, “the existential contradictions between man and animal, day and night, life and death, lust and pain, beauty and horror dissolve away.”

Considering the history of this particular staircase, it’s also a politically intriguing choice of imagery: The only part of the interior of the early 19th-century building that has never been altered, the stairs originally served as a private entrance and exit to and from the museum for King Leopold I and Queen Louise-Marie. Now, it would seem, privacy is a thing of the past for royalty – not to mention for everyone else. All eyes are on us.


Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium

The Royal Museums of Fine Arts in Brussels comprise a handful of thematically oriented museums at different locations across the city. Their combined collections cover Western fine arts from the 15th to the 21st century.
Themes - The museums are the Old Masters Museum, the Modern Museum, the Wiertz Museum, the Meunier Museum and the Magritte Museum.
Location - Only three of the museums are actually housed in the Regentschapsstraat building commonly mistaken for the “Museum”.
Fin-de-siècle - A new and sixth Fine Arts Museum focusing on fin-de-siècle art is slated for 2013.
1 803

Museum opens

3 000

book titles in museum library

20 000

combined artworks