• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 11797

    Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction

    29 June 2016, London, King Street

  • Lot 33

    LOUISE BOURGEOIS (1911-2010)

    Janus in Leather Jacket

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    LOUISE BOURGEOIS (1911-2010)
    Janus in Leather Jacket
    incised with the artist’s initials, number and date ‘L.B. 4/6 92’ and stamped with the Modern Art Foundry mark ‘MAF’ (on the underside)
    bronze
    11 1/8 x 23 x 5 3/8in. (28.5 x 53.5 x 13.5cm.)
    Conceived in 1968 and cast in 1992, this work is number four from an edition of six plus one artist’s proof


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    ‘All my work is suggestive; it is not explicit. Explicit things are not interesting because they are too cut and dried and without mystery’

    —L. BOURGEOIS

    ‘Janus is a reference to the kind of polarity we represent. The polarity I experience is a drive toward extreme violence and revolt … and a retiring. I wouldn’t say passivity … but a need for peace, a complete peace with the self, with others, and with the environment’

    —L. BOURGEOIS


    Louise Bourgeois’ Janus in Leather Jacket revolves slowly, suspended between dualities: male and female, solid and fragile, threatening and vulnerable, this darkly beautiful work majestically articulates the central themes of Bourgeois’ oeuvre. Conceived in 1968 when the artist travelled to Pietrasanta, Italy, to work in marble and bronze, and cast in 1992, this is one of four variations from her hanging Janus series. Distinct from Janus fleuri (1969), housed in the Museum of Modern Art, New York, where two phallic forms conjoin at a raw labial fissure, Janus in Leather Jacket is clothed in a lustrous mantle whose blade-sharp edges offset the swelling, organic paired forms beneath. Its uneasy equilibrium and unnerving, primal physicality conjure all the fascination of the emotional and psychosexual forces that drive Bourgeois’ work. Another edition of Janus in Leather Jacket has been exhibited globally at the Reina Sofía, Madrid; Dia:Beacon, New York; the Musée d’art Contemporain, Lyon; and the Kunstmuseum, Bern. The sculpture was also included in the artist’s 2010 retrospective which travelled to Tate Modern, London; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.

    Janus is the two-faced Roman god of oppositions, gates, openings, transitions, beginnings, and endings. Bourgeois translates this uniquely ambiguous entity into a sensual presence, melding opposites together: the clitoris/phalluses seem at once limp and tumescent, hanging helplessly yet poised like pincers. Playfully cloaking this entity in a ‘leather jacket,’ Bourgeois heightens a sense of obscuring and revelation, the idea of leather – enhanced in the bronze’s dark patina – adding a quiet hint of fetishism. The work’s ambivalence is heightened by its suspension from a wire, which offers a constantly shifting viewpoint as it freely rotates. ‘Hanging is important,’ Bourgeois has said, ‘because it allows things to turn around. It is very helpless, it changes the hierarchy of the work; the base disappears’ (L. Bourgeois, quoted in F. Bonami, ‘In a Strange Way, Things are Getting Better and Better,’ Flash Art vol. XXVII no. 174, January 1994, p. 39). Revolving and pendulous, the work presents a ’double movement of turning inwards (signifying retreat and withdrawal) and outwards (signifying acceptance, an opening up to life)’ (L. Bourgeois, quoted in Louise Bourgeois, exh. cat. Tate, London, 2007, p. xx). This Janus thus remains open and closed, seductive and frightening, hidden and revealing at once.

    In tune with the autobiographical tenor of Bourgeois’ work, Janus in Leather Jacket bodies forth a formal unity wrought from emotional tumult. Continually bringing her past into Janus-like conversation with the present, many of her works relate to the difficult relationship she had with her philandering father and long-suffering mother. This resulted in a conflicting sense of her own sexuality that is evident in her very earliest work, and was articulated ever more eloquently as her practice developed over the decades. As with many of her works, Janus in Leather Jacket is both a form of self-portrait and an exorcism, a psychological interior made outward. In its appendages there are echoes of the iconic spider motif that represents her mother in monumental works such as Maman (1999), while its uncertain gender morphology can also be seen in the marble sculpture Sleep II (1967). As Bourgeois once explained, ‘since I am exclusively concerned, at least consciously, with formal perfection, I allow myself to follow blindly the images that suggest themselves to me. There has always been sexual suggestiveness in my work. Sometimes I am totally concerned with female shapes – clusters of breasts like clouds – but often I merge the imagery – phallic breasts, male and female, active and passive’ (L. Bourgeois, quoted by D. Wye, Louise Bourgeois, New York 1982, pp. 26-27). For all its visual wit, Janus in Leather Jacket is a profound existential apparition balanced elegantly at the intersections of sex, life, art and subconscious.

    Special Notice

    Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.


    Provenance

    The Artist.
    Cheim & Read, New York.
    Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2007.


    Pre-Lot Text

    PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT EUROPEAN PRIVATE COLLECTION


    Literature

    J. Howell (ed.), Breakthroughs: Avant-Garde Artists in Europe and America, 1950-1990, New York 1991, p. 93 (another from the edition illustrated in colour, p. 99).
    R. E. Krauss, Bachelors, Cambridge 1999, p. 55 (another from the edition illustrated, p. 56).
    M. Bal, Louise Bourgeois’ Spider: The architecture of art-writing, London 2001, p.66.
    R. Storr, P. Herkenhoff and A. Schwartzman (eds.), Louise Bourgeois, London 2003, p. 118 (another from the edition illustrated in colour, p. 119).
    M. Nixon, Fantastic Reality: Louise Bourgeois and a Story of Modern Art, London 2005 (another from the edition illustrated, p. 244).
    C. Pommereau (ed.), ‘Louise Bourgeois au Centre Pompidou: Beaux-Arts éditions’, in Beaux-Arts magazine special edition, Paris, March 2008 (another from the edition illustrated, p. 32).
    M. Bösenberg, 40 years, Galerie Karsten Greve, Cologne: 20 years, Galerie Karsten Greve, Paris : 10 years, Galerie Karsten Greve AG, St. Moritz, Cologne 2009, pp. 12 and 120 (another from the edition illustrated, p. 13).


    Exhibited

    New York, 112 Greene Street, Louise Bourgeois: Sculpture 1970-1974, 1974 (another from the edition exhibited).
    Los Angeles, Daniel Weinberg Gallery, Louise Bourgeois, 1984 (another from the edition exhibited).
    New York, Pat Hearn Gallery, Sculpture, 1987 (another from the edition exhibited).
    Boston, Grossman Gallery, School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Undercurrents: Rituals and Translations, 1987 (another from the edition exhibited).
    New York, American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, Louise Bourgeois Sculpture, 1989 (another from the edition exhibited).
    Seattle, Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, Louise Bourgeois: Works from 1943-1987, 1988-1989 (another from the edition exhibited).
    Frankfurt, Frankfurter Kunstverein, Louise Bourgeois: A Retrospective Exhibition, 1989-1991, p. 188, no. 64 (another from the edition exhibited; illustrated, p. 124). This exhibition later travelled to Munich, Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus und Kunstbau; Lyon, Musée d’Art Contemporain; Barcelona, Fundación Tàpies; Bern, Kunstmuseum and Otterlo, Kröller-Müller Museum.
    Denver, Ginny Williams Gallery, Bourgeois: Four Decades, 1990 (another from the edition exhibited).
    New York, David Zwirner Gallery, Coming to Power, 1993 (another from the edition exhibited).
    Denver, Ginny Williams Family Foundation, Louise Bourgeois, 1993-1994 (another from the edition exhibited).
    Salzburg, Salzburger Kunstverein, Real Sex, 1993 (another from the edition exhibited).
    Philadelphia, Locks Gallery, Louise Bourgeois, 1994 (another from the edition exhibited).
    Helsinki, Nyktaiteen Museo, ARS 95 Helsinki, 1995 (another from the edition exhibited).
    Monterrey, Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Monterrey, Escultura de Louise Bourgeois : La Elegancia de la Ironía, 1995-1996, p. 91, no. 45 (another from the edition exhibited; illustrated, p. 68). This exhibition later travelled to Seville, Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo and Mexico City, Museo Rufino Tamayo.
    Curitiba, Fundação Cultural de Curitiba, XI Mostra da Gravura de Curitiba/Mostra America, 1995 (another from the edition exhibited).
    Yokohama, Yokohama Museum of Art, Louise Bourgeois: Homesickness, 1997-1998, no. 44 (another from the edition exhibited; illustrated, p. 76).
    Reykjavik, Reykjavik Arts Festival, 1998 (another from the edition exhibited).
    Madrid, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Louise Bourgeois: Memory and Architecture, 1999-2000, pp. 176 and 377, no. 37 (another from the edition exhibited; illustrated in colour, p. 177).
    Kyungki-Do, National Museum of Contemporary Art, Louise Bourgeois: The Space of Memory, 2000, p. 138, no. 34 (another from the edition exhibited, illustrated in colour, p. 139).
    Beacon, Dia Center for the Arts, Louise Bourgeois Installation at Inauguration of Dia: Beacon, 2003-2012 (another from the edition on extended loan).
    Castello, Espai d’Art Contemporani de Castelló, Micropolitics III: Art and Everyday Life, 2003 (illustrated in colour, p. 76).
    Havana, Wilfredo Lam Center, Louise Bourgeois: One and Others, 2005 (another from the edition exhibited; installation view illustrated, unpaged).
    Baltimore, Walters Art Museum, Louise Bourgeois: Femme, 2006 (another from the edition exhibited).
    Venice, Palazzo Fortuny, Artempo: Where Time becomes Art, 2007, no. 10 (another from the edition exhibited; illustrated in colour in the introduction, unpaged, and p. 71).
    London, Tate Modern, Louise Bourgeois: Retrospective, 2007-2009, p. 312, fig. 151 (another from the edition exhibited; illustrated in colour, p. 162). This exhibition later travelled to Paris, Centre Georges Pompidou; New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; Los Angeles, Museum of Contemporary Art and Washington, D.C., Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden.
    Naples, Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte, Louise Bourgeois for Capodimonte, 2008-2009 (another from the edition exhibited; installation view illustrated, pp. 51-52; illustrated in colour, p. 62).
    Cologne, Galerie Karsten Greve, Louise Bourgeois: A Stretch of Time, 2009 (another from the edition exhibited).
    Berlin, Deutsches Historisches Museum and Schwules Museum, Homosexualities, 2015-2016, p. 219 (another from the edition exhibited; illustrated in colour, p. 132). This exhibition later travelled to Münster, Landschaftsverband Westfalen-Lippe Museum für Kunst und Kultur.
    New York, Maccarone Gallery, Coming to Power, 2016 (another from the edition exhibited).