Naples - Interviews

Naples Clothed In “Oro Rosso”: A Conversation with Jan Fabre and Curator Melania Rossi

4 months ago

Jan Fabre returns to Naples with “Oro Rosso“, a project that involves, with Madre museum, three places of culture: the Museum and Real Bosco di Capodimonte, the Pio Monte della Misericordia and the Studio Trisorio gallery. We interviewed the artist and curator Melania Rossi to learn more about the project.

Carla Ingrasciotta: How did the idea for this exhibition come out and how did your collaboration develop with the institutions involved?

Jan Fabre: From my, purely artistic, point of view, Melania Rossi and Laura Trisorio were the driving forces that allowed these important projects in Naples to happen. For over twenty years I have developed almost spiritual relationships with Laura Trisorio and today the exhibition “Tribute to Hieronymus Bosch in Congo” is held at her historic Neapolitan gallery until the end of September.
I love Naples, every time I go there for some project its energy invests and embraces me, like in a warm and cheerful family-run restaurant. I have been visiting this city since the 1980s, at the time of the Falso Movimento group of friends Mario Martone, Tomas Arana and Angelo Curti, I still have beautiful memories of that period.
My visual art, with “Red Gold. Gold and coral sculptures, blood drawings ”is now at the Capodimonte Museum. Melania Rossi coordinated and supervised the project, also taking care of the recently published catalogue with editor Electa Mondadori.
The story began more than three years ago, when Sylvain Bellenger invited me to visit his museum’s collection and I was impressed by the amount of masterpieces it contains. On that occasion I saw many paintings in which corals appeared and this inspired me to make ten new coral sculptures specifically for the exhibition.
Gianfranco D’Amato, friend, gentleman and great art lover, helped put me in touch with a company with a long family tradition in coral engraving, Enzo Liverino 1894.
Later, one evening when we were having dinner at a restaurant in Naples, the director of Madre museum Andrea Viliani told to me and Melania Rossi that when my bronze sculpture “The man who measures the clouds” was set up two years ago on the terrace of the museum, some visitors had returned several times to see the work and spend time in front of it. So much so that the ticket office had begun to give the entrance free to those who returned to see “The man who measures the clouds”. This work had established a spiritual bond with the Neapolitan public, for this reason Melania Rossi convinced me to give to the Madre museum the Carrara white marble version of the work, as a gift for the spectators and the public of the museum.
“The man who bears the cross”, in its original wax version made with my
own hands, it is located in Pio Monte della Misericordia, a place of great historical and artistic importance. This sculpture speaks about what that place represents, that’s why the curator Melania Rossi chose it. The work questions our doubts, speaks of our search for balance.

Melania Rossi: As often happens in Italy, but actually not only here, the project was built and defined during the work. The collaboration between the various institutions has been organic and animated by everyone’s love for art, from the directors Sylvain Bellenger and Andrea Viliani, to the governor of the Pio Monte Conte Rocco of Terrapadula and his superintendent Barone Alessandro Pasca di Magliano, to the gallerist Laura Trisorio, to the friend and fundamental support Gianfranco D’Amato, up to the art historians and conservators of the Capodimonte museum, the professional restorers etc …
The idea was born, as Jan said, after an invitation from Mr Bellenger, which was followed by three years of work to plan a dramaturgy, a path through four very important places, of real institutions for Naples: the museum and Real Bosco di Capodimonte , the church of the Pio Monte della Misericordia, the Madre museum and the Trisorio gallery.
To be able to inaugurate four exhibitions in the same period of time, great teamwork was needed, an organisation that involved the public workers of the museums, assisted by private professionals. An exhibition work carried out in collaboration with specialised architects saw the study of Jan Fabre engaged for several weeks in Naples. I would say that the Belgians had to agree to improvise a little, they learned to gesticulate and to assume the fact that the agreements, in Italy, are mostly made at the table. On the other hand, the Neapolitans have demonstrated their great professionalism and an incredible passion, helping the artist and his collaborators realise a great exhibition.
The different institutions involved in the “Oro Rosso” project are in excellent relations with each other and believe in synergy for their city, and Fabre is very much loved here so there has always been strong enthusiasm. And then, I would add, when we revealed his works in the various venues, the magic was the same for everyone. The locations were perfect and works of such quality always win.

 C.I: The exhibition is spread throughout 4 locations in Naples. What is the fil rouge of the route?

M.R: When Jan Fabre told me he wanted to make ten new sculptures completely in red coral for the Capodimonte Museum the first thought went to the symbolism linked to this material, the “red gold” to which apotropaic power has been conferred since antiquity, its preciousness, its mythical birth. The coral, as told by Ovid in “Metamorphoses”, was born from the blood of the Gorgon beheaded by Perseus. Medusa had the power to petrify with her eyes and her blood became stone in contact with the earth and the sea. There is a reference to the blood of San Gennaro, to the mythical magic of this liquid gold that keeps us alive. Je suis sang, is also the title of a theatrical performance by Jan Fabre for the 2005 Avignon festival.
Hence the idea of also exhibiting drawings made by the artist with blood since the seventies, along with gold sculptures. All precious, symbolic materials.
At the centre of all the art of Fabre there is always the humankind, the body, the bodily fluids. But there is also the urge to go beyond our mortal destiny, to question ourselves about our actions and to celebrate our doubts and dreams, as shown by iconic sculptures such as “The man who measures the clouds” and “The man who bears the cross”. The first one is an invitation to never stop trying the impossible, to measure a cloud, the sky, the greatness that is outside and inside us, to keep on dreaming; the second is the staging of the constant search for balance that distinguishes us as human beings, between matter and spirit, between finiteness and faith in the infinite. A nine-metre large version of this same sculpture, in bronze covered with gold leaf, is now on display in Venice, as part of the 58th Art Biennale. From the garden of Palazzo Polignac it looks at the Grand Canal and whoever looks out from the Ponte dell’Accademia suddenly sees this man measuring the clouds that, even in its grandeur and preciousness, also in this case, in this wonderful location that becomes magical and rarefied at night, shows all the fragility and strength of the human being, his eternal duality.
Going back to the Neapolitan project, at the Studio Trisorio the theme becomes more political and the terrible history of Belgian colonisation in the Congo is told, but Fabre always starts from the man and his relationship with nature, in this case recounting the encounter between the “predatory western culture” and that “exotic, indigenous usurped” in powerful images composed of mosaics of iridescent jewel beetles.
After all, all of Fabre’s art is political, whether it deals with philosophical, religious or existential themes, or with historical facts, there is always the story of humanity and there is always the attempt to condense into a shape a history, an idea and a thought, which becomes universal. The art of Jan Fabre is explosive and always consistent because every work is connected in a sort of personal universe, fabresque, which is also universal. The fil rouge of this project, for me, is the magic that is created between the works of Fabre and the various venues, between historical and contemporary works, the love for the artistic materials, the amazement in front of the work of art that today as yesterday raises questions and communicates, gives relief and leads to contemplation.

C.I: The dialogue with artists of the past is central to the work of Fabre, who on this occasion confronts Caravaggio and Bosch. Where does this need to measure up with the past come from and how does it develop in your artistic research?

J.F: I often say that I am a dwarf born in a country of giants. The house where I was born and raised in Antwerp was very close to Rubens house and my father always took me to observe and copy Flemish masterpieces. I trained by observing the masterpieces of Rubens, Van Eyck, Brueghel, Bosch, Jordaens. I find that their art is still more avant-garde than a lot of contemporary art. They have been and still are constant sources of inspiration for my work.
I was the first contemporary living artist to be invited to make a solo show at the Louvre in 2008; later I received the invitation to hold a major exhibition in Florence, in direct dialogue with the masterpieces of Piazza della Signoria, with Michelangelo and Donatello; and then in 2017 I received the invitation from Michail Borisovič Piotrovskij to build a personal exhibition of mine at the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, where I chose the gallery spaces of my Flemish masters.
My sculpture “The man who bears the cross” is like a friend to me and my friend is happy to come face to face with the spectacular canvas “Seven Works of Mercy” by Caravaggio.
I received the fire of passion for art from these great artists and I hope to be able to pass it on to future generations. The anarchy of art of all times is like the anarchy of love, it has no rules and participates in a vital, human and humanistic afflatus.
The same humanistic afflatus animates the projects of the artists of all times, in this regard Melania Rossi and her colleague Bianca Cerrina Feroni have curated a beautiful and small collective exhibition in Venice in which I have four of my works, still on show until 8 July at Palazzo Novecento, entitled “Looking for Utopia”. Here these two young and talented curators have decided to exhibit the unrealised projects by the artists, some modern and other contemporary, the utopias and the dreams that are the basis of thought and the work of art.

Carla Ingrasciotta

  • Jan Fabre © Carlotta Manaigo Jan Fabre © Carlotta Manaigo
  • Melania Rossi © Giuseppe Zizza Melania Rossi © Giuseppe Zizza
  • "Jan Fabre. Oro Rosso, Sculture d'oro e corallo, disegni di sangue", Museo e Real Bosco di Capodimonte, Naples © Luciano Romano
  • "Jan Fabre. Oro Rosso, Sculture d'oro e corallo, disegni di sangue", Museo e Real Bosco di Capodimonte, Naples © Luciano Romano
  • Jan Fabre, Jan Fabre, "L’uomo che sorregge la croce", Pio Monte della Misericordia, Naples © L.Romano
  • Jan Fabre, Tribute to Hieronymus Bosch in Congo © Luciano Romano Jan Fabre, Tribute to Hieronymus Bosch in Congo © Luciano Romano
  • Jan Fabre. L’uomo che misura le nuvole © Amedeo Benestante Jan Fabre. L’uomo che misura le nuvole © Amedeo Benestante

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ritratto di JAN FABRE  autore dello spettacolo  "MY MOVEMENTS ARE ALONE  LIKE STREETDOGS " 
(NON IO festival  internazionale sullo spettacolo contemporaneoBOLOGNA - EX BOLOGNA MOTORI  - SAB 27 APRILE  2002)

Jan Fabre


Melania Rossi © Giuseppe Zizza

Melania Rossi