Art Around the World

Big stink in Belgium

By Tom Gross, April 25, 2000

A new sculpture that aims to attract live worms, flies and maggots is raising a big stink in Belgium. The sculpture is made up of 8,000 pieces of smoked ham, and forms eight pink pillars at the entrance to Ghent University. Its creator, Belgian artist Jan Fabre, says that he hopes that as the spring progresses and temperatures rise, the exhibit will attract enough flies and maggots to turn it into a piece of “living, smelling art.”

“It will be just fantastic when all the worms start crawling about in the rotting meat,” he enthuses. “Then the pillars will truly come alive. Good art ought to stink a bit,” he adds.

Others aren’t so sure. The work, which was installed in early April as part of Ghent University’s new Over the Edges exhibition, has been criticized on several grounds. Clean-air lovers have objected to the smell; liberal politicians have pointed out that lots of poor people in Ghent, an industrial city of 250,000, would love to be able to afford such meat (even though the exhibition organizers insist that all 600 kilograms of meat used had already been declared unfit for human consumption before the work was constructed).

But the most serious objection has come from animal rights activists, who have vowed to destroy the work. As a result, it has now been placed under 24-hour security guard.

All of Ghent is holding its breath, waiting to see whether the security guards will be able to handle the smell.

Article copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.