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Louise Bourgeois
Maman by Louise Bourgeois, 1999, via Guggenheim Bilbao (left); with Louise Bourgeois inside her articulated air at the MoMA, 1986, via The Guardian


"I am not what I seem, I am what I do with my hands.”

American,  1911-2010

Biography of Louise Bourgeois

Louise Bourgeois, a French-American artist born in 1911, carved a path through the art world with her powerful sculptures and installations. Though best known for these large-scale works, she was also a skilled painter and printmaker.

Bourgeois' life experiences heavily influenced her art. Raised in Paris by parents who restored tapestries, she was surrounded by art and textiles from a young age. Her childhood, however, was marked by complexity. She grappled with her parents' tumultuous relationship and the death of her mother in her early twenties.

Despite initially studying math at the Sorbonne, Bourgeois found her true calling in art. She enrolled in various Parisian art schools in the 1930s, absorbing influences from Surrealism and abstraction. In 1938, she married American art historian Robert Goldwater and moved to New York City.

Though surrounded by Abstract Expressionism, Bourgeois developed a distinct style. Her work explored themes of family, sexuality, vulnerability, and the unconscious. Spider sculptures, towering cell-like structures, and evocative forms became her signature pieces, often imbued with raw emotions.

Bourgeois continued to create art well into her late 80s, becoming a towering figure in contemporary art. Her work challenged viewers to confront complex human experiences, leaving a lasting legacy on the art world.

Louise Bourgeois & The Art Market 

Louise Bourgeois' monumental spider sculptures hold the crown for her most valuable works at auction. In May 2023, a bronze "Spider" from a 1996 edition shattered records, fetching a staggering $32.8 million at Sotheby's New York. This wasn't her first arachnid record-breaker – another cast from the same edition achieved $32.1 million four years prior at Christie's.

These towering, spindly sculptures transcended mere depictions. Bourgeois imbued them with personal meaning. Often referred to as "Maman" (French for "mother"), the spiders symbolized protection and strength, referencing her own supportive mother who died when Bourgeois was young. The vast scale and intricate webbing resonated with viewers on multiple levels – evoking themes of fragility, power, and the complexities of maternal bonds.

While the spiders reign supreme in auction value, other works by Bourgeois fetch significant prices. Her unsettling "Cell" installations, enclosed spaces filled with evocative objects, can command millions. These introspective environments explore themes of isolation and vulnerability.

Louise Bourgeois' artistic legacy extends beyond record-breaking sales. Her powerful sculptures continue to resonate deeply with audiences, solidifying her place as a groundbreaking artist who explored profound human experiences through her art.

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