• Post-War & Contemporary Mornin auction at Christies

    Sale 2220

    Post-War & Contemporary Morning Session

    11 November 2009, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 158

    Louise Bourgeois (b. 1911)


    Price Realised  


    Louise Bourgeois (b. 1911)
    signed with the artist's initials 'LB' (on the underside of the metal base)
    fabric, steel, plastic and colored glass in artist's wood and glass vitrine
    71¼ x 18 x 18 in. (178.5 x 45.7 x 45.7 cm.)
    Executed in 1998.

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    Personal experience and artistic expression are inextricably entwined in Bourgeois's art. Building on her own deeply felt experiences and her extraordinary aesthetic imagination, she has created works that convey universal feelings of desire, anxiety and distress. Bourgeois declared, "In my sculpture, it's not an image I'm seeking, it's not an idea. My goal is to relive a past emotion. My art is an exorcism" (L. Bourgeois, quoted in Louise Bourgeois: Works in Marble, p. 20).

    Hovering between abstraction and figuration in a three dimensional mixed medium, Bourgeois reveled in the macabre aspects of disembodied signifiers as illustrated in the present work to continually evoke multifarious and lasting forms of unease. This psychologically intense sculpture from 1998 epitomizes Bourgeois's ingenious use of mixed media in sculpture. The artist has a rich history working with textiles throughout her career, however it is arguably the works from the 1990s in which this method of sculpting gained greater importance and personal significance. Time has shaped the artists work creating a mysterious labyrinth of content built layer upon layer, year by year.

    Equal parts unsettling and mesmerizing, Bourgeois chose those parts of the body that are direct conduits of the senses for pleasure and pain - here we have a chopped-off hand, knitted sac shapes and nippled blue glass orbs that interchangeably reference female breasts or male genitalia. Bourgeois's interest in clothing is long-standing and stems from a tactile as well as a personal vantage, in the present lot a glove and its abstract soft shapes are made from her own socks. The hand is one of Bourgeois most enduring and iconic motifs. In her work, "hands often embody extremely personal grief or rage, such as the pain of abandonment after her mother's death in 1932 or rage at her father's duplicities" (Ibid, p. 41). In a letter to the original buyer, Bourgeois wrote, "I am particularly fond of the color scheme; the touch of pink with yellow amongst the blue glass spheres and beads." Subtle coupling of these ambiguous corporeal elements and confinement to the vitrine produces a crescendo that captures the artists urge to integrate, merge and simultaneously disintegrate. In re-living her past and exorcizing her personal pain, Bourgeois has imbued her vitrine and the sculpture within with a life specifically its own.


    Cheim & Read, New York
    Private collection, Houston

    Saleroom Notice

    Please note the artist was born in 1911.


    Brussels, Xavier Hufkens Gallery, Summer Show, July-September 1998.