Artist Jan Fabre Receives 18-Month Suspended Prison Sentence in Sexual Harassment Trial

Jan Fabre, an artist and choreographer who is well known in Belgium, received an 18-month suspended prison sentence from an Antwerp court today amid an investigation into claims of sexual harassment and indecent assault.

He was found guilty in six cases, including the one concerning assault, which involved an alleged French kiss. The artist has denied that this act and any other forms of harassment took place.

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The Brussels Times reported that the suspended sentence—meaning he does not have to serve his sentence in a prison if he meets certain conditions—also strips Fabre of his civil rights for the next five years, preventing him from undertaking activities like voting in the country he has long called home.

In 2018, 20 people formerly affiliated with Fabre’s Troubleyn dance company alleged that the artist had sexually harassed employees. The accusations were made public in a letter to the culture magazine Rekto Verso. Eight signed the letter with their name, while the remaining 12 were mentioned anonymously.

According to the letter, Fabre would contact women with opportunities to dance for him. Then he would “approach the performer sexually.” The letter also accused Fabre of tricking people into sitting for erotic photographs. These actions allegedly became a “hidden currency” within the company, which at once point received around $1 million from the Flemish government annually.

Fabre has repeatedly denied the allegations. He did not appear in court today.

“I sincerely apologise to anyone who feels hurt, to anyone who has felt bad because of me,” he reportedly wrote in a handwritten missive to his lawyer. “I wish you the anarchy of love and beauty.”

While Fabre is better known for his choreographies, his work has been seen widely within the art world. It has featured at museums like the Louvre in Paris and the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, as well as in major biennials, including the 1985 Venice Biennale, where he represented Belgium, and in Documenta 14 in 2017.

The Antwerp court said that Fabre had “created a hostile and humiliating working environment within which his dancers had to function.”

In addition to serving his suspended prison sentence, Fabre was ordered to give five women who had accused him of harassment a symbolic payment of €1 each.


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