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Arthur Vanabelle, La ferme aux avions (The Farm With the Planes)

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About the Artist/Site

Arthur Vanabelle was born in Steenwerck, a small rural community in northern France. He attended school until age twelve, when he began assisting his parents on the family farm. Now retired, he continues to live on the farm with his brother.

During World War II, Steenwerck experienced a great deal of military activity, which Vanabelle witnessed. After the war, he collected all kinds of military and scrap material that had been left in the fields and along the roads. By the 1960s, he decided to use some of the discards he’d amassed. At first he intended to make a weathervane, but he ended up constructing a full-scale replica of an airplane, even though he’d never seen one firsthand. He modelled his version on pictures he found in magazines.

Inspired by his success with his first plane, Vanabelle continued to fabricate many more. With the help of his brother, he positioned airplanes on top of their farm buildings, inspiring the name “La ferme aux avions.”

In addition to airplanes, Vanabelle created tanks and big guns, which he installed around the farm in kind of a battle array. He produced murals, too, and was actively making art until his early eighties.

“The Farm With the Planes” was recognized by the Lille Art Museum in 2010, when it commissioned a maquette, or small-scale replica, of the farm and all Vanabelle’s works. “La ferme” can be seen from the autoroute from Lille to Dunkerque. By spring 2011 the site was no longer open to the public, and in January 2014, the artist was moved to a home for the elderly, where he died in September 2014. In December 2014 it was confirmed that the site was sold to a private party and will become a private residence. During 2015, under an agreement reached with Vanabelle?s brother, the Mayor of Steenwerck removed some twenty works that will ultimately be added to the collection of the local Musée de la Vie Rural [Museum of Rural Life]. The museum is currently undergoing a planned expansion, with the expanded spaces public opening anticipated in 2017.


~Henk van Es

Map and site information

2-6 Rue de l'Hollebecque
Steenwerck, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France
Latitude/Longitude: 50.698232 / 2.807281

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