Contemporary, Modern Art and Old Masters

Auction 178 - 6 March 2021

Contemporary, Modern Art and Old Masters Lot 517

Jan Fabre (Belgium / 1958)
The man who measures the clouds (1998)


€ 180 000 - 240 000


This copy used to be on the roof of the fire brigade building at Zaventem airport.
"The World on its Head: An Exhibition of Contemporary Belgian Art from Flanders" San Francisco Art Institute, San Francisco 2000 (another copy)
"Jan Fabre: L'Uomo che misura le nuvole - l'uomo dalle gambe di carne" Academia Belgica, Rome 2001 (another copy)
"Jan Fabre. Die Jahre Blauen Stunde" Kunsthistorisches Museum, Wien 2011 (another copy)
"Jan Fabre. Hortus/Corpus" Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo 2011 (another copy)
"Art at the Airport" o.a. Marcel van Jole, BIAC 2004, p. 114-117 with reproduction of this copy.
"Homo Faber" Bart De Baere e.a., Mercatorfonds, Antwerp 2006, cf. p. 14 ill.
"Jan Fabre. De bronzen" Guy Pieters 2007, cf. p. 15-55 several ill.
"Jan Fabre. Hortus/Corpus" Stefan Hertmans & Evert van Straeten, Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo/NAj Publ., Rotterdam 2011, cf. cover and p. 6-11 ill.
"Jan Fabre. Spiritual Guards" Carlo Cinelli e.a., Forma Ed., Firenze 2016, cf. p. 54, 55, 111, 112 ill.
Brussels Airport Company NV


Jan Fabre's sculpture "The Man Who Measures the Clouds", which was previously shown at the roof of Zaventem Airport and visible from all angles even when landing, was created in 1984. In the beginning it was a small plaster sculpture that does not exist anymore now; it had grown out of a series of drawings, entitled "Friends".

One of them represented Robert Stroud, a prisoner from the notorious Alcatraz prison, where he was serving a sentence for a passionate murder and where he became a well-known bird-watcher, ornithologist. He is known as "The Birdman of Alcatraz". When Stroud had served his time, the press was waiting for him and when he was asked: "What are you going to do?", he answered: "I'm going to measure the clouds".

For the physiognomy he used his own body and for the face he designed a combination of his own face and that of his deceased brother, Emile, a kind of immortalized fraternal love.

As always with every visual work by Jan Fabre, there is depth in his work, it refers to the impossibility to measure; this is true for plastic art, but also for music, theatre, dance and opera. All disciplines he uses creatively give evidence of a versatility that reminds as well of Pico della Mirandola as of Leonardo da Vinci.

Jan Fabre wanted that his sculpture would be placed at the edge of the roof, symbolically it points to the unstable position of the artist, always acting at the edge where it is dangerous. The sculptures are all high up in the sky, at the edge of the roofs of the Singel in Antwerp, the SM.A.K. in Ghent, on a museum in Japan and even as the figurehead of a Norwegian cruiseship. Fabre chose bronze not only because of its long-lasting message but also because by polishing the sculptures the rays of light and the rays of sunshine bring a rigid object to life.

(Marcel Van Jole)

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