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Lot 31: - Louise Bourgeois , Forêt (Night Garden) Other

Est: $3,000,000 USD - $4,000,000 USDSold:
Sotheby'sNovember 11, 2008New York, NY, US

Item Overview


painted wood


37 x 18 7/8 x 14 3/4 in. 94 x 48 x 37.5 cm

Artist or Maker


New York, Peridot Gallery, Louise Bourgeois: Drawings for Sculpture and Sculpture, March - April 1953
New York, The Whitney Museum of American Art, Nature in Abstraction, January - March 1958, p. 30
Columbia, Columbia Museum of Art, Exhibition of Sculpture in South Carolina Collections, January - February 1979
New York, Museum of Modern Art; Houston, Contemporary Arts Museum; Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art; Akron, Akron Art Museum, Louise Bourgeois, November 1982 - January 1984, pl. 63, p. 62, illustrated
Saint Louis, Saint Louis Art Museum, Louise Bourgeois, the Personages, June - August 1994, cat. no. 39, p.74, illustrated
London, Tate Modern; Paris, Centre Pompidou; New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; Los Angeles, The Museum of Contemporary Art; Washington D.C., The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Louise Bourgeois Retrospective, October 2007 - June 2009, fig. 16, p. 32, illustrated in color (New York exhibition only)


Belle Krasne, "10 Artists in the Margin," Design Quarterly, no. 30, 1954, p. 18, illustrated
Carola Giedon Welcker, Contemporary Sculpture, an Evolution in Volume and Space, New York, 1955, p. 234, illustrated
Thomas B. Hess, "Inside Nature," ArtNews, vol. 56, February 1958, p. 63, illustrated
Michel Seuphor, The Sculpture of this Century, New York, 1959, p. 193, illustrated
Wayne Andersen, "American Sculpture: The Situation in the Fifties," Artforum, vol. 5, Summer 1967, pp. 60 - 67, illustrated (incorrectly titled Garden at Night)
Exh. Cat., Coral Gables, Lowe Art Museum (and travelling), Abstract Sculpture in America, 1930 - 1970, 1991, fig. 7, p. 22, illustrated
Christiane Meyer-Thoss, Louise Bourgeois: Designing for Free Fall, Zurich, 1992, p. 186, illustrated
Exh. Cat., Paris, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (and travelling), Louise Bourgeois : sculptures, environnements, dessins, 1938-1995, 1995, p. 93, illustrated (Paris catalogue) and p. 85, illustrated (Hamburg catalogue)
Exh. Cat., Champaign, Krannert Art Museum, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Louise Bourgeois: The Early Work, 2002, p. 140, illustrated (installation shot from the 1953 Peridot Gallery show)
Exh. Cat., Mountainville, Storm King Art Center, Louise Bourgeois, 2007, pl. no. 4, illustrated in color


Stable Gallery, New York
Arnold H. Maremont, Chicago (acquired from the above in 1958)
Gifted to the present owner from the above in 1973


Executed in 1953.
The complex psychological motivations behind the art of Bourgeois have been the subject of many treatises. Stemming primarily from the emotional stress of her childhood, fractured by her father's infidelity and strained by her mother's chronic illness and death; Bourgeois' associations with the home, family, isolation, sexuality and identity are a constant in her repertoire and are provocatively revealed in her earliest sculptures, the Personages. Moving from painting to sculpture, Bourgeois responded to the increased physicality of sculpture as a three-dimensional object and its symbolic and metaphorical relationship to its environment. For Bourgeois, physical tangibility was inseparable from emotional intensity whether the sensibility was one of tranquility or tension. From 1947-1955, Bourgeois created an abundant range of moods and motifs in the Personages, ranging from vulnerability to aggression, isolation to integration, figurative to architectural. Fôret (Night Garden) was created toward the end of this creative output and is a powerful, mature distillation of the artist's aesthetic premise. October 1949 marked Bourgeois' sculptural debut with a solo show at Peridot Gallery in New York titled Louise Bourgeois: Recent Work 1947-1949: Seventeen Standing Figures in Wood. With her second show at Peridot in 1950, she presented fifteen Personages, as standing individual sentinels silently interspersed across the gallery space. The abstracted Personages were reductive and totemic, painted in solid colors of mostly black and white to emphasize the unitary nature of their form. The hand-carving retained the touch of the artist while their sensuous forms are equally resonant of her spirit. By the time of Fôret (Night Garden) and the grand Quarantania (1947-1953), Bourgeois had also begun to group her forms together in rich associations within a single work. Robert Storr wrote of such cumulative works in the catalogue for the recent traveling retrospective of her work organized by the Tate Gallery, which included Fôret (Night Garden) for the Solomon R. Guggenheim portion. ``Surrealist biomorphism thus allowed not only for allusion to, or alternate representations of, the body, but for a fundamental remaking of the world in which simple elements - a pen stroke or arabesque, carved chunk or length of wood, lump of clay or plaster - could be made to change identity or referent according to its `behaviour' in isolation or in groups. At any given moment, such an element might suggest the geographical or geological, the vegetal or the animal, the male or female. Virtually never do any of them stand unmistakably for one thing...All manifested the principle of metamorphosis before depicting or embodying any specific state of being within their repertoire of aspects.'' (Exh. Cat., London, Tate Gallery, Louise Bourgeois, 2008, p. 32) In her early Peridot exhibitions, the gallery floor served as the boundaries for the environment of Bourgeois' forms, allowing the visitor to walk among her sculptures as if in dialogue with them or participating in their story. With Fôret (Night Garden) and Quarantania, the forms inhabit their own discrete space. As Jeremy Strick noted, ``Fôret (Night Garden) engages two of the crucial achievements of the early Personages: their relationship to architecture and their status as environmental sculptures. Attaching her sculptures to a common base made these later works independent of their environment. Not surprisingly, perhaps the forms that Bourgeois brought together on a single base were organic, rather than the more architectural Geometric shapes that she had explored in the personages of the early 1950s. Nevertheless, the relationship of the figure to architecture has been an issue that has continued to preoccupy Bourgeois, long after the personage series was completed. Twenty objects on a small base, touching or almost touching, they have no reference to the usual sculpture of forms in open space, at some distance from each other, related by force. They are held together by their separation.'' (Exh. Cat., St. Louis Art Museum, Louise Bourgeois: the Personages, 1994, pp. 31-32) The grouping of Fôret (Night Garden) recalls other Modernist treatments of the figure reduced to its essence in a narrowly defined, yet anonymous space. The attenuated figures of Alberto Giacometti's City Square (1948) certainly come to mind for their similar intellectual rigor. Yet in the tradition of ``tableaux'' one is tempted to ascribe a narrative quality to anthropomorphic forms. The single white form of Fôret (Night Garden) is a powerful and evocative element, full of psychological impact as it sits surrounded by darker forms crowding around it. Even though Bourgeois' intent is more abstract and intellectual, one cannot help but respond to Sidney Geist's description of the sculpture in his review of the 1953 Peridot Gallery exhibition. ``Fôret, and it is a forest, a garden, a grouping of separate forms on a single base. Fruit-like, pod-like, seed-like, slowly twisting, round, flat, incised or smooth, these forms constitute the vocabulary of a sensibility. They speak a private poem of restraint and seclusion''. (Sidney Geist, ``Louise Bourgeois'', Art Digest, 1 April 1953, vol. 27, no. 13, p. 17)

Auction Details

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

November 11, 2008, 12:00 PM EST

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