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Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM THE VIKTOR AND MARIANNE LANGEN COLLECTION
Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010)

Untitled (Chairs)

Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010)
Untitled (Chairs)
incised with the artist's initials 'LB' (on one side)
steel, mirror and glass
7 ¼ x 23 ¼ x 12in. (18.4 x 59.1 x 30.5cm.)
Executed in 1998
The Artist.
Galerie Karsten Greve, Cologne.
Viktor and Marianne Langen, Meerbusch (acquired from the above).
And thence by descent to the present owners.
Vienna, Kunsthalle Wien, Bourgeois-Holzer-Lang, 1998-1999, p. 120 (detail illustrated, p. 17).
Cologne, Galerie Karsten Greve, Louise Bourgeois, 1999 (illustrated, p. 123).
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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.

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Lot Essay

'It is not an image I am seeking. It’s not an idea. It is an emotion you want to recreate, an emotion of wanting, of giving, and of destroying’ (L. Bourgeois, quoted in C. Meyer-Thoss, 'Self-Expression Is Sacred and Fatal: Statements’, Louise Bourgeois: Designing for Free Fall, exh. cat., Ammann Verlag, Zürich 1992, p. 194).

Jewel box-like in its presentation, Untitled (Chairs) by Louise Bourgeois, is an exquisitely rendered sculpture which touches on themes central to the artist’s practice: family, intimacy, and domesticity. A stage for personal encounters, a steel tableau forms the setting for this vignette. Appearing like a Wunderkammern, or cabinets of curiosities, upon the miniature platform, a blown glass bell-jar is fused, containing a single chair, dwarfed by a vanity mirror. A circle of five chairs surrounds the glass orb. Assembled in this cluster, the chairs seem anthropomorphic – as a united social group looking into this isolated scene. A unique work that belongs to a series of eight small table top sculptures executed in 1998, Untitled (Chairs) is a continuation of life-long explorations. The present work was exhibited in the ‘Bourgeois-Holzer-Lang’ exhibition at Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna, Austria, the same year it was created.

The chair became an important symbol for the artist around 1998. As the artist has stated ‘That chair is the place for me, in the stage, inside the house- and I can only look at it’ (L. Bourgeois, quoted in Louise Bourgeois Spider: The Architecture of Art-Writing, Chicago 2001, p. 52). The five figures represented here may refer to both her own nuclear families: that of her childhood and later, the family she began in 1938 when she married art historian Robert Goldwater. This collective can be informed by Bourgeois’ Personage sculptures, the early wooden sculptures, which were originally conceived as isolated objects, but over time, were grouped together by the artist in various configurations. By 1940, Bourgeois was uniting several objects together on a single base, such as Quarantania, 1941, in the Collection of the Museum of Modern Art, and One and Others, 1955, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Upon this platform, the encircling chairs project a powerful, familial dynamic.

Furthering this link to the domestic, the oversized mirror recalls on those found at a dressing table. Positioned over the single internal chair, the swivelling mirror looks as if it is projecting in as much as reflecting out, capturing different aspects of the tableau. Bourgeois wrote: ‘It is the quality of your eyes and the strength of your eyes that are expressed here. Nobody is going to keep me from seeing what it is instead of what I would like’ (L. Bourgeois quoted in N. Finch (dir.), Louise Bourgeois: No Trespassing, 1994, Arena Films, BBC).

The creation of Untitled (Chairs) coincided with Bourgeois acquiring her own separate studio for the first time in a disused garment factory in Brooklyn. While this additional space afforded the artist to work on a large scale for the first time, it also enabled her to experiment with new materials. This led to the inclusion of domestic objects, which resulted in the artist’s series of ‘cells’ works. The motif of the vanity mirror relates closely to her Cells of this time, as well as the installation entitled I Do, I Undo and I Redo, the very first commission of the Unilever Series at Tate, London, in 2000. As if magnifying the bell jar vignette to epic proportions, I Do, I Undo and I Redo featured 3 massive towers, each over 9 metres high fitted with a single chair surrounded by a number of oversized vanity mirrors. In each tower, Bourgeois placed a miniature, sculpted figure of a mother and child. In Untitled (Chair), the mirror and glass take on new meaning. As if a butterfly is caught beneath the glass, the sole chair beneath the bell jar invites new perspectives in reality.

Bourgeois’ art inextricably entwined personal experience and artistic expression. For over seven decades, the artist employed sculpture to investigate projected psychological states. We can trace the roots of much of Bourgeois’ imagery to her own life, particularly to painful childhood memories and the fraught terrain of femininity. There is a sense of catharsis to Bourgeois’ artistic practice, which charges her vitrine and the sculpture within with a release of emotional tension. As in all of Bourgeois’ works, Untitled (Chairs), expresses a duality wherein those very same familial themes of intimacy and dependence also project a darker sense of claustrophobia and enclosure, and domesticity is captured within the glass bubble. She relentlessly tried to unearth and confront the deeply repressed issues that conditioned her youth, an effort that dominated her long career. In 1982, she confided to the world that she obsessively relived, through her creative process, the trauma of discovering an affair between her father and her English governess, to which her mother had turned a blind eye. Her delicate, fragile works also resonate on a much wider scale, conveying universal themes of emotion, anxiety, and longing. Bourgeois’ concern with memory resonates throughout her artistic practice – indeed here they are frozen in a bubble of time. As the artist states, 'It is not an image I am seeking. It’s not an idea. It is an emotion you want to recreate, an emotion of wanting, of giving, and of destroying’ (L. Bourgeois, quoted in C. Meyer-Thoss, 'Self-Expression Is Sacred and Fatal: Statements’, Louise Bourgeois: Designing for Free Fall, exh. cat., Ammann Verlag, Zürich 1992, p. 194).

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