• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 7619

    Post-War & Contemporary Art Day Sale

    21 October 2008, London, King Street

  • Lot 223

    Louise Bourgeois (b. 1911)

    Femme

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    Louise Bourgeois (b. 1911)
    Femme
    stamped with the artist's initials and foundry mark, numbered and dated 'L.B. 2/6 MAF 05' (on the underside)
    bronze with silver nitrate patina
    2¾ x 6½ x 2¾in. (6.9 x 16.5 x 6.9cm.)
    Executed in 2005, this work is number two from an edition of six plus one artist proof


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    "There has always been sexual suggestiveness in my work. Sometimes I am totally concerned with female shapes - clusters of breasts like clouds - but I often merge the imagery - phallic breasts, male and female, active and passive. [...] We are all vulnerable in some way, and we are all male and female" (L., Destruction of the Father/Reconstruction of the Father, London 2000, p. 101).

    Femme is a highly sensual sculpture that explores the tension between sexual opposites. It calls to mind Bourgeois' figures from the late 1960s and 1970s, which feature limbless bodies crowned by phalluses--her demonstration of how to combine rather than reconcile the feminine and masculine eros (Harmless Women, 1969; Fragile Goddess, 1970). Femme is a woman of fleshy sensuousness, with heavy round breasts and a protuberant belly, the visual embodiments of fecundity. As the fabric version of Fragile Goddess (2002), it bears eloquent testimony to Bourgeois' predilection for themes of femininity and semantic/sexual ambiguity. She elaborates on earlier compositions, rendering the body in a reclining position and showing the left upper leg. This compositional variation endows the figure with an evocative sexual charge. The broken leg presents a formal counterpoint to the phallus-shaped head, while the suggestive cleavage leads the viewer's eye toward the hidden female genitalia. The absent and invisible body parts could be seen to represent female vulnerability, a recurrent theme in Bourgeois' work and writings. "In a woman," she once stated, "sex comes when she loses control. In a man, it comes from asserting his control" (ibid., p. 228). The use of sculpture to depict fragments of the body is a practice that dates to antiquity, but Bourgeois' sources appear far older. Through its quasi-archetypal, mammary-like forms, Femme recalls primitive statuettes such as the Venus of Willendorf. With its flesh-like surface and soft-rounded shapes, the sculpture is imbued with an enticing tangibility, capturing Bourgeois' quest for formal perfection to maximum effect.

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    Provenance

    Xavier Hufkens Gallery, Brussels (acquired directly from the artist).
    Acquired from the above by the present owner.


    Literature

    N. Spero, H. Lang, E. Showalter and D. Bertoni, "Louise Bourgeois I-III", in Tate Etc., no. 11, Autumn 2007 (illustrated in colour, p. 55).


    Exhibited

    London, Tate Modern, Louise Bourgeois, October 2007-January 2008. This exhibition later travelled to Paris, Centre Georges Pompidou, March-June 2008.