Sanguis sum, 2001. Bronze, gold, bone, and powdered bone, 2 vitrines, 235 x 185 x 95 cm. each.

Jan Fabre at the Louvre

Context determines meaning. When artworks are placed in unusual situations and combined in unexpected ways, new patterns emerge from the juxtaposition. Contrasts of type, size, shape, material, composition, motif, texture, color, content, and meaning restructure information and introduce new dialogues. As viewers confronting the unfamiliar, we question the unfolding drama: What do the objects say to each other, and how does one work affect another?

Jan Fabre recently became the first contemporary artist invited to install his work amid the permanent collection of the Musée du Louvre (April 9–July 7, 2008). The choice was a natural one for several reasons. Fabre’s drawings, sculptures, and videotaped performances are diverse in form, feeling, and content, allowing for a wide range of confrontations with historical objects. In addition, the Belgian artist’s work is so widely admired in Europe that his selection could be counted on to draw a large segment of the contemporary art audience to this venerable institution. Conversely, people with little interest in the art of our time would become immersed in a significant body of contemporary work while exploring the Louvre’s world-renowned collections, thereby—one would hope—achieving an appreciation for more recent forms of artistic expression.