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A Century of Art: The Gerald Fineberg Collection


stamped with the artist's initials, numbered and dated 'LB 3/6 06' (on the lowest element)
painted bronze and stainless steel
57 x 12 x 12 in. (144.8 x 30.5 x 30.5 cm.)
Conceived in 1954 and cast in 2006. This work is number three from an edition of six plus one artist's proof.
Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner, 2009
R. Storr, Intimate Geometries: The Art and Life of Louise Bourgeois, New York, 2016, p. 240 (plaster version illustrated).
T. Vischer, ed., Fondation Beyeler: The Collection, Switzerland, 2017, p. 149 (another example illustrated).
I. Brugger, Ansichten Heft 18: Louise Bourgeois, Switzerland, 2020, p. 7 (another example illustrated).
New York, Sperone Westwater Gallery, Louise Bourgeois: Works from the 50’s, April-May 1989 (plaster version exhibited).
Kansas City, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Louise Bourgeois, July-September 1994 (plaster version exhibited).
New York, Blumarts, Louise Bourgeois and Yayoi Kusama, June-September 2001 (plaster version exhibited).
Städtische Museen Jena, Louise Bourgeois: Sculpture, Drawings and Prints, September-November 2010, p. 47 (illustrated; another example exhibited).
Seoul, Kukje Gallery, Louise Bourgeois: Personages, May-June 2012, pp. 70-71, 75 and 94, no. 70 (illustrated; another example exhibited).
Beijing, Faurschou Foundation; Copenhagen, Faurschou Foundation, Louise Bourgeois: Alone and Together, October 2012-March 2014, pp. 41, 129 and 130 (illustrated; another example exhibited).
Basel, Fondation Beyeler, Sammlungshangung Bourgeois, October 2013-January 2014 (plaster version exhibited).
Mexico City, Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes, Louise Bourgeois: Petite Maman, November 2013-March 2014, fig. 7 (illustrated; another example exhibited).
Basel, Fondation Beyeler, Moon Bird and Spider, October 2018-January 2019 (plaster version exhibited).
Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt; Humlebæk, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Fantastic Women. Surreal Worlds from Meret Oppenheim to Frida Kahlo, February-September 2020 (another example exhibited).

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Lot Essay

Matching the viewer at human scale, invoking the impression of two individuals joined in an eternal bond, Louise Bourgeois’ Untitled may be considered an intimate relic of the artist’s fond kinships. The present work is an example of the artist’s Personages series, a collection of works that represent a pivotal shift in the artist’s personal and professional lives, signifying both her intimate reflections on childhood and manifestations of the self, as well as her bold leap toward Surrealist figuration, emulated and innovated in three-dimensionality.

The present work is comprised of two columnar pieces of steel, standing at human scale, which support an array of amorphous painted bronze elements. Here, Bourgeois’ specific interest in Surrealism can be seen in the biomorphic, organic curvatures. Fascinated by the liberatory nature of the aforementioned movement, Bourgeois turned to sculpture out of a felt necessity in the hopes of translating the endless permutations and allusions of Surrealism to the three-dimensional space. Meeting the viewer at eye level, the present work—and comparable Personages from the artist’s series—demands private contemplation. As one acquaints themselves with these two entities, examining them from various angles, the figures themselves are equipped with an animism, as if Bourgeois had breathed life into them herself. Bourgeois considered her Personages as extensions of lived experiences, the relationships that were dear to her heart, while still playing with the fantastical realm, imagining up a unique community of sculpted people, in her own words reflecting that “the figures were conceived of and functioned as figures, each given a personality by its shape and articulation, and responding to one another” (L. Bourgeois in 1954, quoted in J. Strick, Louise Bourgeois: The Personages, Westlake, 1994, p. 8). The play between the tangibility of this work juxtaposed against the imagined personas they embody presents a visual experience that is just as vulnerable, just as visceral, as it may have been for Bourgeois herself. The present work is unique in its presentation of two figures, displaying bifurcating, yet inherently related, themes of human connectedness that the artist returns to over the span of her robust career.

Whilst her contemporaries were orienting their thematic tenets on those closely associated with those of Abstract Expressionism, Bourgeois dove wholly into her own personal investigations with materiality, austerity, simplicity, and vulnerability. In many regards, works from the artist’s Personages series—which display an unprecedented degree of complexity—may be considered portraits both of the artist’s inner life and the lives of those who comprise it; as one would hold dear to their loved ones, so too did Bourgeois retain several Personages in her personal collection, notably including the present work, often moving them between her studios and homes. Over time, these works have inherited a wealth of history and meaning for the artist and her personal interactions with them. Bourgeois’ later Personages display a dynamism, a unique level of flexibility that distinguishes them from their earlier, perhaps more rigid monolith peers. The present work displays an artist at the height of her explorations with sculpture, introducing greater expressiveness to three-dimensionality. It was Bourgeois herself who believed she could, in fact, feel deeper in three-dimensionality. And while each Personage provokes questions of representation and the self, displayed in groupings—as the artist chose to do on several occasions—they collectively invoke questions of community and gathering.

Bourgeois’ shift to sculpture unleashed her inner psyche from the restraints of two-dimensionality, allowing the artist to make a significant shift both in her practice and in the intentionality she brought to her work. Though rarely commenting on her artistic intentions, she aptly noted that her introduction to sculptural expression presented a new level of vulnerability into her practice, “I got the nerve to look around me, to let go. Not to be so nervous. Not to be so tense” (L. Bourgeois, quoted in A. Kirili, “The Passion for Sculpture,” Art Magazine, March 1989, p. 72). Coupled with her marriage and the birth of her three sons—with motherhood bringing a newfound tenderness to her life—the act of sculpting became a liberatory practice in and of itself. This may be noted in the minute variations between each element of the present sculpture; their meticulous curvatures and magnificent, near storied, surfaces render an extension of Surrealist thought. The stacks are comprised of elements reminiscent of bones, their rounded edges and textured surfaces evoking the density and strength of vertebrae. Each sculpted element appears to support one another, akin to the support afforded by a spinal cord. Perhaps the present work may be seen as the human form reduced down to its central support, its source of life. In this regard, the two figures that comprise Untitled may be considered relics of Bourgeois’ personal life, cemented eternally on a base of steel, the essence of their beings just as animated as their source subjects would have been.

Across her varied oeuvre, Louise Bourgeois has maintained keen focus on central themes of self-protection, dreams, vulnerability, fear, sexuality and nurturing, whilst consistently capturing them in radical new interventions with materiality. The present work alone displays the artist’s facility across mediums, from plaster to bronze, symbolizing the universality and versatility of her sculptural figurations. Works including Untitled belong to a distinct grouping of Personages frequently revisited in to the latest stages of Bourgeois’ career. Though originally conceived in 1954 in plaster, it was in 2006 that the artist revisited Untitled’s composition and, supported by her ultimate acclaim and financial success, recast this work in bronze. Bourgeois continued to produce casts of Untitled’s composition in the subsequent balance of her career, culminating in a total of six bronze casts and one artist’s proof. Untitled, then, may be considered a prominent example of Bourgeois’ career, or rather a holistic artefact of one of the most important Post War sculptors, representing central themes that remained poignant to the artist for the duration of her historic career.

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