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Jan Fabre, The Freedom of Compassion, 2019. Deep precious coral, pigment, polyamide, 113 x 101, 7 x 39,5 cm, with Belgian granite and steel base,Chapel of the Pio Monte della Misericordia, Naples. Photo: Luciano Romano

NAPLES.- Saturday December 21 sees the inauguration of four new red coral sculptures created by Jan Fabre for the Pio Monte della Misericordia in Naples, to be exhibited permanently in the institution’s chapel. The set-up of the space has always valued the use of contemporary art: the artworks by Caravaggio, Battistello and Luca Giordano were, in fact, contemporary art works when the Pio Monte was established. Jan Fabre’s sculptures, hence, complete the arrangement of the chapel in an organic and consistent way.

From April to September 2019, Pio Monte chapel has already temporarily exhibited Jan Fabre’s The Man who Bears the Cross sculpture in its own chapel, as part of the artist’s personal exhibition “Red Gold”, curated in partnership with the Capodimonte Museum. The initiative, curated by Melania Rossi, was met with great success and has seen a substantial influx of people due to the harmonious way the sculpture integrates with the church environment, both in terms of its formal aesthetic and its conceptual and spiritual character.

From this exhibition, the idea of an ensemble of new artworks, especially conceived to be exhibited permanently in the Pio Monte della Misericordia chapel. The Government of the institution, in agreement with the Superintendence of Archaeology, Fine Arts and Landscape for the City of Naples, determined the location for the sculpture would be four already existing niches in the side chapels.

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Jan Fabre, The Resurrection of Life, 2019. Deep precious coral, pigment, polyamide, 124,5 x 101,5 x 40,5 cm., with Belgian granite and steel base, Chapel of the Pio Monte della Misericordia, Naples© DR

Jan Fabre has created an installation of four red coral sculptures with complex symbolic and iconographic associations, so to stimulate a dialogue with the seventeenth-century paintings conserved inside the church. The new sculptures – each 110 cm high and weighing approximately 50 kilos – are completely covered with red coral (in the shape of small roses, pearls and half pearls, and the traditional Neapolitan horns), a natural but rare and precious material, widely used in Neapolitan art for its symbolic and spiritual significance, referring to energy and life force.

Although the body in all its forms has been the main focus of Jan Fabre’s research and a recurring theme in his artistic production since the early eighties, the heart – an element shared by all cultures as a symbol, both spiritual and physical, of universal love and compassion – has a special place in this permanent installation. Indeed, a great heart is the central element of each sculpture, as it represents the central wisdom of thoughts and feelings.

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 Jan Fabre, The Purity of MercyDeep precious coral, pigment, polyamide with Belgian granite and steel base, Chapel of the Pio Monte della Misericordia, Naples. Photo: Luciano Romano .

In every sculpture, each of the four hearts is linked to different elements which have strong symbolic meanings and are in constant communication with the aesthetic and spiritual context: The Purity of Mercy with the lily, which represents Mary’s purity, and the donkey’s jaw as a metaphor for the act of “giving thirsty people something to drink” inspired by the “Seven Works of Mercy” by Caravaggio (1606-1607); The Freedom of Compassion with the dove, a symbol of the holy spirit recalling “Saint Paul Frees a Slave” by Giovan Bernardino Azzolino (1626-1630); The Resurrection of Life with the ivy, a symbol of resurrection and eternal life, which is wrapped around the cross, a central symbol of Christianity and the tree of life, referring to the “Deposition of Christ” by Luca Giordano (1771); The Liberation of Passion with the torch, an emblem of enlightenment and hope, and the key, a symbol of Saint Peter and the gates of heaven, referencing “Saint Peter Raising Tabitha” by Fabrizio Santafede (1611).

The publication accompanying the exhibition project, published by Electa and edited by Melania Rossi, contains texts by Luigi Pietro Rocco di Torrepadula, Gianfranco D’Amato and Vincenzo Liverino, essays by Stefano Causa, Bianca Cerrina Feroni, Dimitri Ozerkov, Melania Rossi and Els Wuyts, as well as collage drawings created by the artist.

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© DR