Louise Bourgeois

Spiderwoman's Sad Soul

Bourgeois 1 by bourgeois vg bild-kunst the easton foundation
It's a spider!
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    They once made her the best-paid female artist of her time, but only a few of Louise Bourgeois’ spiders and other works are available for sale today.

  • Facts


    • A Munich museum is showing her later works called Cells which probe her fears of beatings, loss and abandonment.
    • Her work ranged from explicitly feminist statements to claustrophobic, psychologically challenging sculptures.
    • Ms. Bourgeois’s work routinely fetches millions, but most pieces are with galleries or private collectors.
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Emotional states like fear and redemption lie close to one another in the installations of the French-American sculptor and artist Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010).

As an artist, she roamed through the tangle of traumatic childhood memories all her life. Yet it wasn’t until age 75 that she began to stage the surreal spatial and nightmare images from those remembrances.

The Haus der Kunst art museum in Munich has organized the largest overview of her central, complex work ever assembled in the exhibit “Structures of Existence: The Cells.”

Ms. Bourgeois created minute yet meter-high spaces out of doors and sheet metal, infused with an inventory of injuries she suffered at the hands of her father, her losses and her fears of abandonment.

Often, it is only a crack that allows a glimpse into the interior of the cell, which may contain nothing more than a small, empty stool as in “Cell VI” from 1991. Or, perhaps a very realistic male lower thigh and a guillotine as in “Cell III.”

These theatrical stagings exude a great deal of loneliness and a subtle anxiety. But it is a work hinting at unseen threats called “Precious Fluids,” consisting of a cot, two black balls, a rack containing dozens of vials and a long black coat hanging from a wall hook, that made her world famous in 1992 at the XI Documenta, the art festival held every five years in the western German city of Kassel.

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