November 29, 2016 / 5:50 PM / a year ago

Russia's Hermitage museum faces criticism over Fabre exhibition

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (Reuters) - Over 200 artworks by Jan Fabre displayed at St. Petersburg’s State Hermitage Museum have drawn mixed reactions because of the Belgian artist’s use of stuffed animals alongside classical paintings.

“Knight of Despair/Warrior of Beauty”, which opened in the famed Russian museum last month, sees Fabre’s contemporary creations such as stuffed animals mixed with work from the Hermitage’s permanent collection.

A stuffed swan, hare and dog are among installations that Fabre, known for his blue “Bic” ballpoint pen drawings, has put up, irking animal lovers as well as some art fans, who have complained on social media that such works have no place in the Hermitage.

The museum, which recommends viewers be at least 16 years old to see some parts of the exhibit, has defended the display, saying Fabre, whose inspirations include Flemish painters Peter Paul Rubens and Jacob Jordaens, explores themes such as life and death through his work.

“According to our monitoring, the most negative reactions came from people who didn’t see the exhibition but saw (online discussions about it),” Dmitry Ozerkov of the museum’s modern art department said.

“Those who have visited the exhibition understand that it has a very complicated idea and it is not about some simple flamboyant things but about a complicated cultural process, a modern artist’s defense of the old art from barbarity,” he said.

Fabre, also a performance artist and stage director, has eight films showing at the exhibition, including “Love is the Power Supreme” which features him.

During a visit to the museum, student Maria Abramenko said Fabre was “raising awareness that one should look at what is around them”.

Fabre has previously had his work displayed at the Louvre museum in Paris among other international locations.

Reporting by Reuters Television; Editing by Tom Heneghan

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