News out of Venice almost seems like a joke. The Venice Biennale will celebrate its 58th year with a "special project," a whopping 30-foot tall, gold-plated statue of a man on a ladder holding a ruler.r. The source of inspiration for this work, titled "The Man Who Measures the Clouds." by Belgian artist Jan Fabre, was a quote from convicted murderer Robert Stroud in the 1962 movie "The Birdman of Alcatraz."

Moved by the musing of a convicted murderer

Stroud said that if he were released from prison he would "measure the clouds." ArtDaily notes the statue is intended as "a metaphor for Fabre's attempt to "capture the impossible." But the statue seems less a metaphor and more a literal illustration of Stroud's words.

Not to worry, Fabre has another source of inspiration - a quote from the ancient Greek philosopher Protagoras who wrote, "Man is the measure of all things." So, take your pick.

Going Trumpian with self-promotion

Announcement of this news from Venice in Art Daily and in a host of other art news outlets reads like a press release written by the artist himself owing to subjective descriptions like "the great artist Jan Fabre." One may well ask what makes him great? A statue that pictures a quote with unwavering fidelity to every word does not fit Fabre's billing. Controversial may be the more operative word.

Killing animals in the name of art

According to Artnet Fabre has long been publically shamed for making a movie of cats getting tossed into the air for hard landings at the door of the Antwerp Town Hall. Multiple news outlets cited animal rights leader Llulcl Bungeneers saying, "To my horror, we found cats were being assaulted in the name of art." At least fellow artist Damian Hirst uses animals already dead. More animal cruelty showed up in Fabre's exhibit at the Russian State Hermitage where he presented stuffed animals that he claimed were roadkill.

Abusing the privilege

Then there were allegations of abuse of another kind when Hyperallergic reported sexual harassment charges last year from 20 members of his staff last year. All of which makes it hard to take seriously The Man who Measures the Clouds as "a metaphor for the artist's attempt to capture the impossible." Covering the statue over in sunny gold doesn't erase his dark record of abuses of man and beast.

While inspired by a movie, Fabre's statue is far from inspiring

Rather than a man measuring the clouds, Fabre's figure looks like a Times Square sign painter. The only other modern gold statue that comes to mind is Oscar, Hollywood's Academy Award statuette, especially the original one designed by the well-known movie art director Cecil Gibbons. But instead of a ruler, Oscar wields a crusader's sword and instead of standing on a ladder, the figure stands on a reel of film.

All tolled, while the Oscar honors the arts, Fabre's abuses dishonor them.

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