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Est: $700,000 USD - $900,000 USDSold:
Sotheby'sNovember 09, 2004New York, NY, US

Item Overview


stamp signed with initials, dated 98, numbered 3/6 and stamped with the foundry mark

Bronze, wall relief

Cast in 1998, this sculpture is number 3 from an edition of 6 bronze casts plus one artist's proof. These were cast from a steel sculpture of the same size, executed in 1996.


80 by 71 by 21in. 203.2 by 180.3 by 53.3 cm.

Artist or Maker


B. 1911


Yokohama Museum of Art, Louise Bourgeois: Homesickness, November 1997 - January 1998, p. 97, illustrated (another example)
Bordeaux, capc Musée d'Art Contemporain; Lisbon, Centro Cultural de Belém; Malmö, Konsthall; London, Serpentine Gallery, Louise Bourgeois: Recent Works, February 1998 - January 1999, p. 29, illustrated in color (another example) and p. 123, illustration of the artist with another version of the work
Cologne, Galerie Karsten Greve, Louise Bourgeois, February - March 1999
Bielefeld, Kunsthalle Bielefeld, Louise Bourgeois, February - May 1999, Vol. 1, p. 38, illustrated (another example)
Cologne, Trinity Church, Macht und Fursorge, August - October 1999, p. 12, illustrated in color


Exh. Cat., Milan, Fondazione Prada, Louise Bourgeois: Blue Days and Pink Days, 1997, p. 230, illustration of the artist with another version of the work
Robert Storr, et. al., Louise Bourgeois, London, 2003, p. 19, illustrated in color (installation view at capc, Museé d'Art contemporain de Bordeaux, 1998)


Galerie Karsten Greve, Cologne
Acquired by the present owner from the above in 1999


Spider IV
is one of the artist's great sculptures employing the signature motif of her oeuvre. Suspended on the wall, the legs of Spider IV alternately grip their way upward while coiling reflexively in repose, suggesting both action and contemplation. Emerging first in the ephemeral environment of her early drawings and triumphantly towering over the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern with the gargantuan Maman (1999) in 2000, the resurgence of the Spider in sculptural form in Bourgeois' work of the 1990s, had been remarkable, attesting to the primacy of this frightening yet fragile creature in the artist's imagination.

Images of a spider recur throughout Bourgeois' work, constituting a prolonged series of drawings, sculptures, prints and installations, each representing a huge spider, hovering over a page, a wall, a ceiling, a room or above one of the artist's architectural Cell installations. Spiders are powerfully evocative, sparking primal emotions ranging from fear to comfort. For Bourgeois, they spoke of childhood and a filial narrative of home, whose webs and weaving speak to how our psyches are a network of past memories informing our present. In a text published for her 1998 European traveling exhibition, which included a casting of Spider IV, the artist related an extensive dream narrative about visiting a "house" that is in fact her subconscious. As she wanders through rooms and emotional reveries, Bourgeois "[continues] to visit the house every day, without flagging, even if I'm afraid sometimes, even if I always suffer for it....I even feel it's me who controls the house to a certain extent,... - by deciding which doors to open, by picking a path among the shifting stories. Then I feel I exist. ..I am mistress of the house." (Exh. Cat., London Serpentine Gallery, Louise Bourgeois, p. 9)

Within this house of memory and reflection, the Spider is the other being. Although Bourgeois acknowledges the primal fear of spiders as predators that can entrap, she observes no webs in her inner house and the Spider is a benign presence among the terrors of existence. In biographical terms, the Bourgeois family business (in which she participated) was to restore antique tapestries, so weaving and the use of art to tell tales from the past are an integral part of her personal history. In metaphorical terms, weaving and fabric have a more poetic function as sources of comfort and security. "An eight-legged shadow will loom over me. I wouldn't be afraid though....The spider would... begin to sew, for me and forever, a huge web to tuck me in. She'd seal all the openings, block all the doors, repair all the torn fabric, line the stairs with downy threads to soften potential falls, fill all the empty corners....She'd stay here forever, by my side, sewing and stitching, huge and bent under the weight of her arms, ready to open wide. If I could, if I dared, if I had to, I'd go to her; I'd willingly fall into her gigantic arms." (Ibid, p. 10)

The maternal, nurturing character of the Spider is unmistakable in Bourgeois' dream-play, and becomes explicit in a text published with a suite of nine etchings employing the spider motif from 1995 titled Ode à Ma Mère. "The friend (the spider - why the spider?) because my best friend was my mother and she was deliberate, clever, patient, soothing, reasonable, dainty, subtle, indispensable, neat, and as useful as a spider. She could also defend herself, and me, by refusing to answer 'stupid', inquisitive, embarrassing personal questions." This final allusion to a need for protection also hints at the very contradictory emotions and impulses of this most complex artist. Elsewhere in the text of Ode à Ma Mère, the spider is immersed in the artist's discussions about fear, despair, nihilism, blame and fault ("It is Papa's fault. It is Nanny's fault"). Bourgeois addresses a direct enquiry to "Little Maman" about who is lying and asks for forgiveness that it is in fact herself who has lied, ending with the entreaty, "Wait for me, don't run. I'm coming. I need you."

In this discourse, the unnamed presence in the family trio is the artist's father who, despite his absence, looms large in her subconscious. Outwardly, the Bourgeois family was a model of gentility and her father, Louis, provided well for the needs of his three children in their residences in Paris and in the countryside. Louise's mother, Josephine, supervised the home and its retainers well, while Louise enjoyed well-tailored clothes, trips abroad and a good education. Yet, the inner life of the Bourgeois home seethed with tensions that were not well-hidden from the children. Their tutor was a young woman who was also their father's live-in mistress, a situation known to and reluctantly accepted by their mother, who eventually died after a protracted illness. The profound and complex psychological effect of this marital triangle with its underlying cross-currents of betrayal and fidelity have become the accepted "myth" around which Bourgeois' artistic identity has been constructed, both by critics and the artist herself. Later events in her personal history and the artist's long sense of struggle with the vagaries of life have surely been reflected in her art as well, but the artist's veiled references to her earliest history serves her well in the modern Freudian interpretations that abound in modern art criticism. While her writings appear to reveal the artist's subconscious to a marked extent, her installations and sculptures, such as Spider IV, still retain a deeply mysterious and subtle air, hinting at reserves of experience and memory that we can still only guess at. In writing of Bourgeois' rich metaphorical landscape, Jerry Gorovoy commented that

"Through shape and line, material and texture, Bourgeois is able to give a palpable specificity to her memories. More than just marking time, and nostalgic reminiscing, Bourgeois wants through her sculpture to re-create the past, to have total recall to the emotions, to analyze the event, to control it, to correct it, and finally to forgive and forget it....Bourgeois' sculptures mark a collection of traumas, fears, anxieties, resentments and unfulfilled desires which through her sculptures she is able to exorcise." (Exh. Cat., Yokohama Museum of Art, Louise Bourgeois: Homesickness, 1997, n. p.)

Auction Details

Contemporary Art, Evening

November 09, 2004, 12:00 AM EST

1334 York Avenue, New York, NY, 10021, US