New York

Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale

November 10th 2015

New York – On November 10th, Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale promises to be a landmark occasion for the art market when Christie’s will offer Spider, one of Louise Bourgeois’s  most enduring and iconic motifs and the largest work by the artist ever offered at auction. Estimated between $25 million to $35 million, the mammoth bronze arachnid is expected to surpass the artist’s current record of $10.7 million, established in 2011 by Christie’s New York for a different edition of Spider, and is set to make history for the sale of a sculpture by a female artist.

Acquired in 1997 by the present owner, this exceptional Spider has been featured prominently in every major Bourgeois retrospective, including The Prada Foundation, Milan; the  Foundation Belem and Malmo Konsthall, Lisbon; the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Kyungki-Do, Korea; the Akademie Der Bildenden Kunste Wien and Kunstraum Innsbruck, Vienna;  Rockefeller Center, New York;  The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg;  the City Art Museum, Helsinki Stockholm;  the Museet for Samtidskunst and Humlebæk, Oslo; the Museum of Modern Art, Louisiana; the Playhouse Square’s Star Plaza, Cleveland; the Akademie der Künste, Berlin-Brandenburg; the Wilfredo Lam Center, Havana; the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; the Storm King Art Center, Mountainville, and the Museo Picasso, Málaga.


With its combination of irregular, hand-worked surfaces and smooth, highly finished elements, the spider form is a complex mix of menace and emotion. Stretching upward over ten feet, Spider’s exaggerated legs recall the arches of so many Gothic cathedrals. Its yarn-like body suspended in air, Spider’s form becomes an airy mass—creating a space of both asylum and inquisition. A source of extreme fear for some, the artist’s giant spider cannot help but conjure up cult American science fiction movies of the late 1950s, exploiting the notion of arachnophobia by positing the end of the Earth through the diabolical acts of an eight-legged monster. For Bourgeois however, the spider takes on a more personal role, acting as the embodiment of her own turbulent autobiography.

It is an honor to present at auction this masterwork by one of the most significant and influential artists of our time. Spider is a tour de force through which Bourgeois masterfully brings us into her highly personal, symbolic and powerful domain.” declared Jonathan Laib, Senior Specialist Post-War and Contemporary Art.

Conceived in 1996 and executed in 1997, Spider is third in an edition of six brilliantly rendered sculptures by Bourgeois, based upon a motif that she initially referenced in a small ink and charcoal drawing in 1947. In the second half of the 1990s, the spider became a dominant preoccupation for the artist, who created colossal versions such as Maman, 1999, which was exhibited to great acclaim at Tate Modern, London, and the Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao.  Three spiders of the six existing reside permanently in institutions in the US, Brazil and Korea.

Bourgeois has spoken of the spider as evoking her mother Josephine, who repaired tapestries in the textile restoration workshop that Bourgeois’s father ran in Paris.

Louise Bourgeois wrote: “The Spider is an ode to my mother. She was my best friend. Like a spider, my mother was a weaver.  My family was in the business of tapestry restoration, and my mother was in charge of the workshop. Like spiders, my mother was very clever. Spiders are friendly presences that eat mosquitoes. We know that mosquitoes spread diseases and are therefore unwanted. So, spiders are helpful and protective, just like my mother."

Spider may also be said to draw on the Greek legend of Arachne, the mortal weaver who challenged the goddess Athena and was condemned to become a spider, as well as the reputation of the black widow who eats her partner immediately after mating. These sources—personal, mythological and folkloric—combine to give a sense of the bittersweet fate of being a woman, a wife and a mother. Bourgeois’s choice to use the traditionally male-dominated domain of monumental sculpture to articulate her childhood feelings intensifies the effect and represents a repudiation of the power of her volatile father.

Born in Paris, Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010), lived in a building on the rue de Seine that also housed the Galerie Gradiva, a Surrealist exhibition space. During the Second World War, she moved to New York and spent time with members of the exiled Surrealist circle, including André Breton, André Masson and Joan Miró.


Christie’s holds the world auction record for a work by Louise Bourgeois, with Spider, 1996, a different edition which was sold in New York on November 2011 for $10,722,500

Viewing - Christies New York – in front of 20 Rockefeller Plaza

31 October - 12 November 2015

Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Christies New York – 20 Rockefeller Plaza

10 November 2015                        

About Christie’s

Founded in 1766, Christie’s is a world-leading art and luxury business. Renowned and trusted for its expert live and online auctions, as well as its bespoke private sales, Christie’s offers a full portfolio of global services to its clients, including art appraisal, art financing, international real estate and education. Christie’s has a physical presence in 46 countries, throughout the Americas, Europe, Middle East, and Asia Pacific, with flagship international sales hubs in New York, London, Hong Kong, Paris and Geneva. It also is the only international auction house authorized to hold sales in mainland China (Shanghai).

Christie’s auctions span more than 80 art and luxury categories, at price points ranging from $200 to over $100 million. Christie’s has sold 8 of the 10 most important single-owner collections in history, including the Paul G. Allen Collection—the most valuable collection ever offered at auction (November 2022). In recent years, Christie’s has achieved the world record price for an artwork at auction (Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi, 2017), for a 20th century artwork (Andy Warhol’s Shot Sage Blue Marilyn, 2022) and for a work by a living artist (Jeff Koons’ Rabbit, 2019). 

Christie’s Private Sales offers a seamless service for buying and selling art, jewellery and watches outside of the auction calendar, working exclusively with Christie’s specialists at a client’s individual pace.

Recent innovations at Christie’s include the groundbreaking sale of the first NFT for a digital work of art ever offered at a major auction house (Beeple’s Everydays, March 2021), with the unprecedented acceptance of cryptocurrency as a means of payment. As an industry leader in digital innovation, Christie’s also continues to pioneer new technologies that are redefining the business of art, including use of hologram technology to tour life-size 3D objects around the world, and the creation of viewing and bidding experiences that integrate augmented reality, global livestreaming, buy-now channels, and hybrid sales formats. 

Christie’s is dedicated to advancing responsible culture throughout its business and communities worldwide, including achieving sustainability through net zero carbon emissions by 2030, and actively using its platform in the art world to amplify under-represented voices and support positive change.

Browse, bid, discover, and join us for the best of art and luxury at: or by downloading Christie’s apps. The COVID-related re-opening status of our global locations is available here.