Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010)
Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010)

Labyrinthine Tower

Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010)
Labyrinthine Tower
Siena marble
36 x 24 x 18 in. (91.4 x 61 x 45.7 cm.)
Conceived in 1962 and executed in 1982. This work is one of three unique marble variants.
Hauser & Wirth, Zurich
Acquired from the above by the present owner
L. R. Lippard, “Louise Bourgeois: From the Inside Out,” Artforum, vol. 13, March 1975, p. 32 (plaster version illustrated).
C. Meyer-Thoss, Louise Bourgeois: Designing For Free Fall, Switzerland, 1992, p. 20 (plaster version illustrated).
M.-L. Bernadac, Louise Bourgeois, Paris, 1996, p. 68 (plaster version illustrated).
L. Bourgeois, Destruction of the Father / Reconstruction of the Father (Writings and Interviews 1923-1997), London, 1998, p. 86 (plaster version illustrated).
R. Crone and P. G. Schaesberg, Louise Bourgeois: The Secret of the Cells, Munich, 1998, p. 56 (first plaster version illustrated).
P. Vethman, “Als ik geen kunst zou maken zou ik sterven, an interview with Louise Bourgeois,” Elegance, no. 4, vol. 55, April 1998, p. 104 (illustrated).
A. Jahn, Louise Bourgeois: Subversionen Des Körpers, Berlin, 1999, p. 211 (plaster version illustrated).
Louise Bourgeois, exh. cat., Cologne, Galerie Karsten Greve, 1999, p. 69 (plaster version illustrated).
Louise Bourgeois, exh. cat., Kunsthalle Bielefeld, 1999, p. 10 (first plaster version illustrated).
O. Turkina, Louise Bourgeois: Pandora’s Box, St. Petersburg, 2001, p. 42 (second plaster version illustrated).
R. Storr, P. Herkenhoff and A. Schwartzman, Louise Bourgeois, London, 2003, p. 60 (bronze version illustrated).
R. Martinez, Centre of Gravity, Istanbul, 2005, p. 131 (first plaster version illustrated).
M. Nixon, Fantastic Reality: Louise Bourgeois and a Story of Modern Art, London and Cambridge, 2005, p. 226 (first plaster version illustrated).
M.-L. Bernadac, Louise Bourgeois, Paris, 2006, pl. 9 (plaster version illustrated).
R. Storr, Intimate Geometries: The Art and Life of Louise Bourgeois, New York, 2016, pp. 308 and 327 (plaster version illustrated).
Q. Shen, "Louise Bourgeois," Noblesse Art Now, 26 November 2018, p. 27 (bronze version illustrated).
New York, Stable Gallery, Louise Bourgeois: Recent Sculpture, January 1964 (first plaster version exhibited).
New York, Sculptors Guild, Inc., Lever House, Sculpture 1964, October-November 1964, p. 8 (iron version exhibited and plaster version illustrated).
New York, Sculptor’s Guild, Inc., Thirtieth Anniversary Exhibition, October-November 1967, p. 10 (iron version exhibited and plaster version illustrated).
New York, 112 Greene Street, Louise Bourgeois: Sculpture 1970-1974, December 1974 (iron version exhibited).
New York, Grey Art Gallery, New York University, Selections from the New York University Art Collection, September 1976 (iron version exhibited).
New York, Grey Art Gallery, New York University, Small Sculpture, February-March 1981 (iron version exhibited).
Chicago, Renaissance Society, University of Chicago, Louise Bourgeois: Femme Maison, May-June 1981, no. 22 (iron version exhibited).
New York, Museum of Modern Art; Houston, Contemporary Arts Museum; Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art; Akron Art Museum, Louise Bourgeois: Retrospective, November 1982-January 1984, pp. 70 and 115, pl. 83 (second plaster and iron versions exhibited; plaster version illustrated and studio view illustrated).
New York, American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, Works by Newly Elected Members and Recipients of Honors and Awards, 1983 (another example exhibited).
New York, Jamaica Arts Center, Sculpture from the Collection of the Gray Art Gallery and Study Center, September-December 1983 (iron version exhibited).
Paris, Galerie Maeght-Lelong; Zurich, Galerie Maeght-Lelong, Louise Bourgeois: Retrospektive 1947-1984, February-May 1985, p. 23 (Paris; iron version exhibited and marble version illustrated); no. 16 (Zurich; iron version exhibited and marble version illustrated).
London, Serpentine Gallery, Louise Bourgeois, May-June 1985 (white marble version exhibited).
Miami, Florida International University, Louise Bourgeois, October-November 1987 (second plaster version exhibited).
Boston, Grossman Gallery, School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Undercurrents: Rituals and Translations, October-November 1987 (second plaster version exhibited).
Bridgehampton, Dia Art Foundation, Louise Bourgeois: Works from the Sixties, June-July 1989, p. 13 (plaster version exhibited and illustrated).
Cologne, Museum Ludwig, Bilderstreit, April-July 1989 (first plaster version exhibited).
New York, American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, Louise Bourgeois Sculpture, May-June 1989 (second plaster version exhibited).
Frankfurter Kunstverein; Munich, Stadtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus; Lyon, Musée d'art Contemporain; Barcelona, Fundación Tàpies; Bern, Kunstmuseum; Otterlo, Kröller-Müller Museum, Louise Bourgeois: A Retrospective Exhibition, December 1989-July 1991, p. 88, pl. 36 (Frankfurt and Barcelona; second plaster version exhibited and illustrated); p. 90, pl. 36 (Lyon; second plaster version exhibited and illustrated).
Columbus, Wexner Center for the Visual Arts, Ohio State University, Inaugural Exhibition Part II - Art in Europe and America: The 1960s and 1970s, May-August 1990 (second plaster version exhibited).
Vienna, Galerie Krinzinger, Louise Bourgeois 1939-89 Skulpturen und Zeichnungen, May-June 1990 (first plaster version exhibited).
Denver, Ginny Williams Gallery, Bourgeois: Four Decades, October-December 1990 (second plaster version exhibited).
Santa Fe, Laura Carpenter Fine Art, Louise Bourgeois Personages, 1940s / Installations, 1990s, July-September 1993 (second plaster version exhibited).
Hannover, Kestner-Gesellschaft, Louise Bourgeois: Sculptures, September-October 1994, pl. 24 (first plaster version exhibited and illustrated).
Prague, Galerie Rudolfinum; Paris, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris; Deichtorhallen, Musée d'Art Contemporain de Montréal, The Locus of Memory, March 1995-September 1996, p. 98 (Paris; second plaster version exhibited and illustrated); p. 90 (Hamburg; second plaster version exhibited and illustrated).
Oxford, Museum of Modern Art, Louise Bourgeois, October-December 1995 (second plaster version exhibited).
Salzburg, Rupertinum, Louise Bourgeois: Sculptures and Objects, June-October 1996 (first plaster version exhibited).
Monterrey, MARCO; Seville, Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporaneo; Mexico City, Museo Rufino Tamayo, Louise Bourgeois, June 1995-August 1996, p. 59, pl. 31 (bronze example exhibited and illustrated).
Madrid, Galerie Soledad Lorenzo, Louise Bourgeois, November 1996-January 1997, p. 26 (bronze example exhibited and illustrated).
Seattle, The Henry Art Gallery, Inside, April-June 1997 (second plaster version exhibited).
Milan, Prada Foundation, Louise Bourgeois: Blue Days and Pink Days, May-July 1997, p. 119 (second plaster version exhibited and illustrated).
Yokohama Museum of Art, Louise Bourgeois: Homesickness, November 1997-January 1998, p. 68 (first plaster version exhibited and illustrated).
Madrid, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Louise Bourgeois: Memory and Architecture, November 1999-February 2000, pl. 26 (first plaster version exhibited and second plaster version illustrated).
Kyungki-Do, National Museum of Contemporary Art, Louise Bourgeois: The Space of Memory, September-November 2000, p. 123 (second plaster version exhibited and illustrated).
Zurich, Hauser & Wirth, Louise Bourgeois: Works In Marble, May-July 2002, p. 49 (illustrated).
Beacon, Dia Center for the Arts, Louise Bourgeois Installation at Inauguration of Dia:Beacon, May 2003-long term loan (bronze example exhibited).
Zurich, Daros Collection, Louise Bourgeois: Emotions Abstracted, March-December 2004, fig. 24 (first plaster version exhibited and illustrated).
Seoul, Kukje Gallery, Louise Bourgeois: Abstraction, April-June 2007, p. 49 (black marble version exhibited and illustrated).
London, Tate Modern; Paris, Centre Georges Pompidou; New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; Los Angeles, Museum of Contemporary Art; Washington, Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden, Louise Bourgeois: Retrospective, October 2007-June 2009, p. 165 (plaster and bronze versions exhibited).
The Hague, Gemeentemuseum, Bellmer / Bourgeois – Double Sexus: Supplemental Installation, September 2010-January 2011 (bronze example exhibited).
Buenos Aires, Fundación PROA; Sao Paulo, Instituto Tomie Ohtake; Rio de Janeiro, Museu de Arte Moderna, Louise Bourgeois: The Return of the Repressed, March-November 2011, vol. 1., fig. 14 (bronze example exhibited and plaster version illustrated).
Doha, Qatar Museums Authority Gallery, Louise Bourgeois: Conscious and Unconscious, January-June 2012, p. 72 (white marble version exhibited and illustrated).
Beijing, Faurschou Foundation; Copenhagen, Faurschou Foundation, Louise Bourgeois: Alone and Together, October 2012-February 2014, pp. 120-121 (white marble version exhibited and illustrated).
Mexico City, Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes, Louise Bourgeois: Petite Maman, November 2013-March 2014, pl. 8 (bronze example exhibited and illustrated).
Basel, Fondation Beyeler, Sammlungshangung Bourgeois, October 2013-January 2014.
Munich, Haus der Kunst; Moscow, Garage Museum of Contemporary Art; Bilbao, Guggenheim Bilbao, Louise Bourgeois, Structures of Existence: The Cells, February 2015-September 2016 (bronze example exhibited).
New York, Grey Art Gallery, New York University, Inventing Downtown: Artist Run Galleries in New York City, 1952-1965, January-April 2017 (iron version exhibited).
New York, Museum of Modern Art, Louise Bourgeois: An Unfolding Portrait, September 2017-January 2018 (bronze example exhibited).
New York, Cheim & Read, Louise Bourgeois: Spiral, November-December 2018, p. 19 (bronze example exhibited and illustrated).
Beijing, Song Museum, Louise Bourgeois: The Eternal Thread, March-June 2019, p. 30 (bronze example exhibited and illustrated).

Brought to you by

Ana Maria Celis
Ana Maria Celis

Lot Essay

Having taken a nine-year break from her artistic practice, Louise Bourgeois returned to the studio in 1962 and reengaged with a form that had preoccupied her practice since its earliest days. Spirals appear in the artist’s drawings as early as the mid-1940s and would command the attention of the artist through the duration of her eight-decade career. With its torqued axis twisted into a serpentine curve, Labyrinthine Tower is, like all of the artist’s spirals, a “study of the self,” to use her own words. (L. Bourgeois, quoted in P. Herkenhoff, ‘Louise Bourgeois, Femme-Temps’ in Louise Bourgeois: Blue Days and Pink Days, exh. cat., Fondazione Prada, Milan, 1997, p. 273). To answer her rhetorical question, “Where do you place yourself, at the periphery or at the vortex?” Bourgeois’s placed herself outside of the spiral as its maker as a way to gain access to its interior, where she negotiated “the fear of losing control” against the experience of “giving up control; of trust, positive energy, of life itself” (L. Bourgeois, quoted in Christine Meyer-Thoss, Louise Bourgeois: Designing For Free Fall, exh. cat. Zurich: Ammann Verlag, 1992, n.p.).

Spinning upwards from its base in a series of concentric, angular turns, Labyrinthine Tower ends in the exhausted tilt of its rounded and bifurcated tip, seemingly having spent all the energy that propelled it forward. It is as if the masculine thrust of Vladimir Tatlin’s Monument to the Third International (1919–20), a never built architectural project that symbolized the exuberance of post-Revolutionary Russia and was intended to be a feat of modernity in glass and steel, has been deflated of its enthusiasm. This is all to say that Bourgeois’s Labyrinthine Tower, for all of its architectural references, like much of the artist’s work, is also distinctly phallic in appearance.

For all its references to the male body, Bourgeois understood the twisting motion and labyrinthine spaces as themselves feminine. In an interview with the curator Paulo Herkenhoff, Bourgeois spoke of the spiral as a “feminine geometry. A torsade is something that revolves around an axis. This geometry is founded on poetic freedom and promises security” (L. Bourgeois, quoted in ‘P. Herkenhoff in conversation with Louise Bourgeois, transcribed and edited by Thyrza Nichols Goodeve’, in R. Storr, P. Herkenhoff, A. Schwartzman (eds.), Louise Bourgeois, London 2003, p. 11). A space of confinement, the maze that is a labyrinth is intended to enclose. However, Bourgeois’s labyrinth finds freedom in this trap by ascending upwards, and undoing itself. In this way, Bourgeois has created a form that conjures the psychological dilemma projected upon the female body by Sigmund Freud’s theories on male and female sexuality. Bourgeois reveals sexual identity and the gendered body to be an unstable projection that manifest within and are projected upon from without. Labyrinthine Tower brings together male and female into a single form.

Though her invocation of genitalia is gendered, Bourgeois was careful to articulate that the invocation is not erotic. In another interview with the esteemed curator of the Museum of Modern Art, William Rubin, she said “I am not particularly aware or interested in the erotic of my work, in spite of its supposed presence. Since I am exclusively concerned, at least consciously, with the formal perfection, I allow myself to follow blindly the images that suggest themselves to me. There is no conflict whatsoever between these two level” (L. Bourgeois, quoted in ‘William Rubin – Louise Bourgeois: Questions and Answers’, in M.-L. Beradac, H.-U. Obrist (eds.), Louise Bourgeois: Destruction of the Father Reconstruction of the Father, Writings and Interviews 1923-1997, London 2000, p. 86). Labyrinthine Tower, then, is the synthesis of masculine and feminine, hard and soft, geometric and biomorphic, tower and labyrinthe, periphery and vortex, freedom and confinement, a study in contrasts that seamlessly resolve in space.

Over the eight decades of a life spent in art, Bourgeois returned over and over again to the spiral form. She would draw spirals in ink, pencil, crayon, watercolor, gouache and paint on paper and canvas and craft spirals out of wood, steel, bronze, marble, plaster, iron, and lead in space. Crafted in a wide range of materials, spirals have also been realized in a variety of forms. They spin in concentric circles on the page of a drawing, like tornados viewed from above. They twist into columns, turn into snakes, bend around the corners of pyramids and climb up staircases, and like Labyrinthine Tower, they rise upwards from the ground until they teeter over. In Labyrinthine Tower, the spiral is formed from mottled marble from a quarry in Siena, tower, the Torre del Mangia, overlooks one of city as an appendage to the Palazzo Publicco, one of the very first centralized civic government buildings, having been built in at the beginning of the Renaissance. Like that building, the marble of Bourgeois’s tower is a dust-colored orange, the color of the earth and stone from that region of Italy. Bourgeois created other versions of Labyrinthine Tower in 1962 in a range of other materials. A cast iron edition lives in New York University’s Art Collection at the Grey Art Gallery. The DIA Foundation is the home to a bronze version of Labyrinthine Tower, while a black marble version is in the Collection of LEEUM, Samsung Museum of Art in Seoul.

While the references Bourgeois invoke in Labyrinthine Tower range from allusions to towers by Tatlin and in Sienna, Freud, and others, at the heart of the artist’s spinning vortex is a quest for herself that is deeply personal. The pause from art making just before Bourgeois launched full force into the making of Labyrinthine Tower was also a break from society in which the artist attended to a period of depression and attempted to resolve long-harbored childhood trauma. While in recovery, one of the chores Bourgeois was responsible for in her home, was the winding of the clocks. This ritual of domesticity balanced the chaos of the spiral as an act of stability. Speaking of winding, Bourgeois said to Paolo Herkenoff, “To rewind is to make a spiral. And the action demonstrates that even though time is unlimited, there is a limit to how much you can put on it. As you are tightening the spiral you must take care. If you tighten too much you risk breaking it. In this sense the spiral is a metaphor of consistency. I am consistent in my spiral. For me there is no break. There is never an interruption in the spiral because I can not stand interruptions” (L. Bourgeois, quoted in ‘P. Herkenhoff in conversation with Louise Bourgeois, transcribed and edited by Thyrza Nichols Goodeve’, in R. Storr, P. Herkenhoff, A. Schwartzman (eds.), Louise Bourgeois, London 2003, p. 12).

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