In 1998 Jan Fabre created the present lot, a life-size, polished and shining realistic sculpture of a man on a ladder with a ruler in his hand measuring the clouds. It pays hommage to the artist's late brother, who was, accordig to Fabre, a true dreamer. But at the same time it was modelled after the artist himself, and thus expressing the feeling of planning the impossible, which is actually what an artist does, trying to gain a hold over the universe. As Fabre stated in an interview: "The figure symbolizes my trade. The artist's attempt to get grip on things, but it never quite works out as planned. (...) The artist measures: he establishes connections - mental, physical, political and philosophical rapports - I am constantly measuring these types of relationships, that is my duty as an artist. (...) As an artist, I constantly measure the clouds".
Jan Fabre's work manifests a profound affection towards humankind and its dreams and weaknesses. The man who measures the clouds represents a frozen action, a tribute to death and to the artist (in: Sculpture, March 2004, Vol 23, no. 2, Conversation with Jan Fabre, by Michiel Amy).
The work is also insprired on prisoner Robert Stroud, also known as the Birdman of Alcatraz. In the movie based on his life, his character played by Burt Lancaster, states when he left prison: "I am going to measure clouds". In real life Stroud died in prison.
Other casts can be found in the collections of: SMAK, Ghent; San Fransisco Art Institute, San Fransisco; 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa; the City of Antwerp.