It's Not Bosch. Well, in One Sense It Is
Darwent, Charles, The Independent on Sunday (London, England)
A show that places Jan Fabre's work alongside the hellish imaginings of his fellow Belgian is a damp squib. Better to stroll down the boulevard
Jan Fabre: L'Ange de la metamorphose The Louvre PARIS
Figuration Narrative: Paris 1960-72 Grand Palais PARIS
As a rule, interpolating contemporary artworks into Old Master collections strikes me as a bad idea, the outcome suggesting either that classicism needs justifying by its modernity or vice versa.
So Jan Fabre's L'Ange de la metamorphose at the Louvre is doubly worrying, first because it is set in the museum's wonderful Northern Schools gallery, and second because Fabre is a fine and oddly overlooked artist. That he is also Belgian makes your toes curl in anticipation, unhappily fulfilled by exhibition leaflets claiming Fabre as the inheritor of une tradition artistique flamande and comparing him with Hieronymus Bosch. The Louvre's first (and, to date, only) sally into crossover curating - a turkey called Counterpoint, in 2005 - was so viciously reviewed that you'd think it would have put them off. But no.
Actually, the worst that can be said of L'Ange de la metamorphose is that it is mostly possible to see it without being distracted by Bosch, or Bosch without being bothered by Fabre. The latter's Sanguis sum - a two-part sculpture of gilded lambs - obviously engages with Christian iconography: that one lamb wears a dunce's cap plays with the etymological link between "Christian" (chretien) and "cretin" (cretin). Fabre's beetle-wing armour suits and self- portraits in blood are typically powerful, and hold their own among the glories of Bellechose. If that is the best that can be said of a show, though - that it is actually two shows that don't get in the way of each other - you slightly wonder what the point was.
Far better go to the Grand Palais, whose show Figuration Narrative ponders the last real moment when French art believed in itself. …