The Flemish visual artist and choreographer Jan Fabre, accused of sexual harassment and indecent assault by dancers from his company, was sentenced on Friday April 29 to an eighteen-month suspended prison sentence by the criminal court of Antwerp.
During the trial, which was held at the end of March, a three-year prison sentence had been requested against this figure of contemporary art, but the court considered that part of the facts – some of between them dating back to 2002 – were time-barred and dismissed the charges of six of the twelve alleged victims.
Jan Fabre, who had not attended the trial, was also absent when the judgment was announced. “We are satisfied with this judgment”reacted An-Sofie Raes, one of the lawyers representing the civil parties, quoted by the Flemish daily From Standaard.
Suspended sentence accompanied by deprivation of civic rights
Caught up by the #metoo wave in 2018, the 63-year-old Fleming was tried for “violence, harassment or sexual harassment at work” against twelve former employees of his company, Troubleyn. He also had to answer for an “indecent assault” against one of them. On Friday, the judgment upheld a sexual assault against one of the complainants, and violence or humiliation against five others.
His sentence to eighteen months in prison is accompanied by a stay of execution for a period of five years, during which Jan Fabre is deprived of his civic rights, according to a copy of the judgment sent to the press.
On March 25, the first day of the trial, he had been portrayed, in the testimonies of several dancers, as a tyrannical man during rehearsals, regularly humiliating his collaborators and having even exercised sexual blackmail on some of them. . Several victims recounted erotic photo sessions led by the choreographer, under the pretext of a publication in an artistic journal. Some sessions ended with sexual intercourse.
After this overwhelming portrait, three years in prison had been requested by the prosecutor. It had judged the testimonies of the victims “very believable” and reproached the choreographer for having established “a culture of fear” within the company. His defense presented during the trial a completely different image of Jan Fabre, portrayed as a “romantic anar”but certainly “not a criminal”.
“No sex, no solo”, the flagship accusation of the file
His lawyer, Eline Tritsmans, admitted the ” strong character ” of the artist, known for his provocations, and the fact that working with him “it’s giving 100%” in grueling performances where we aim “the real exhaustion, the real emotions”. “It’s not about defenseless minors who are abused, but about strong, educated women who choose to go and do radical dance with Jan Fabre”pleaded Mand Tritsmans.
Flagship accusation of the file, summarizing in the eyes of the victims the tendency of the choreographer to harassment, the formula “no sex, no solo” had been denounced by the lawyer as “a rumor, a gossip”. The charges relate to the period 2002-2018. In June 2021, after three years of investigation, the Antwerp Labor Auditor, a specialized section of the prosecution, decided to refer Jan Fabre to criminal justice.
The works (drawings, sculptures) of this protean artist, which explore the themes of death, metamorphosis, religion or science, have been exhibited regularly in Europe. In 2002, he covered the ceiling of the hall of mirrors of the royal palace in Brussels with 1.4 million beetle elytra with blue and green reflections, one of his most famous achievements.