Louise Bourgeois

Museum of Contemporary Art
Permanent exhibition

Several major works and a permanent installation created by the French-American artist Louise Bourgeois (1911–2010) will be featured in two rooms in the Museum of Contemporary Art.

In addition to Celle VIII (1998), the sculptures Quarantania (1947–53) and Fée Couturière (1963) will be on display, along with the print series He Disappeared into Complete Silence, which Bourgeois worked on for several decades (1947–2005).

Bourgeois became famous later on in life for her daring treatment of major psychoanalytical themes such as family relations, sexuality, and human emotions such as anxiety, jealousy, loneliness, and sorrow.

People and architecture

A recurring motif in Louise Bourgeois’s works was the relation between people and architecture. Celle VIII is part of a substantial series of installations from the 1990s where the artist explored her interest in the house as a symbolic space. The cells are large, cage-like constructions of glass or steel wire that contain various sculptures, objects, and textiles from her life.

Louise Bourgeois was inspired by architecture already in the 1940s. Quarantania is one of her most renowned sculptures from the Personages series. The initial works in this series were made from wood and bring to mind Native American totems.

But Personages was also inspired by the skyscrapers of New York – indeed, Bourgeois worked on the series on the roof of Stuyvesant’s Folly, the high-rise building where she lived after moving from Paris to the “New World”. At the same time, Bourgeois started working on the print series He Disappeared into Complete Silence, which features thorn-like architectural structures and claustrophobic interiors.

Unnerving and claustrophobi

The hanging sculpture Fée Couturière resembles a beehive, yet retains an indeterminate shape. Bourgeois made the sculpture during a period where she worked with latex and clay. The rough surface seems unfinished, so that the sculpture looks more like something organic and changing rather than a finished sculpture in the traditional mode.

A similar sculpture from the same time was displayed at Lucy Lippard’s famous “Eccentric Abstraction” exhibition in 1966. The exhibition paved the way for the Abject Art style and established Bourgeois as a feminist artist.

All of Bourgeois’s “houses” have an unnerving, claustrophobic air that stems from their dual nature of being both protective and threatening. The works on display here reveal Bourgeois’s stylistic development as well as the unwavering interest in people and architecture in her art.

The permanent Bourgeois presentation is the result of a collaboration between the Louise Bourgeois Trust and the Easton Foundation. Celle VIII was acquired by the Sparebankstiftelsen DNB foundation in 2012 following an agreement of a long-term loan to the National Museum.

The permanent installations in the museum also include Marianne Heier’s Promesse de bonheur (2013), Ilya Kabakov’s The Garbage Man (The Man Who Never Threw Anything Away (1988–95), Per Inge Bjørlo’s Inner Room V: The Goal (1990), and Richard Serra’s Shaft (1988).

Curator: Andrea Kroksnes