Louise Bourgeois

Museum of Contemporary Art
Permanent exhibition

French-American Louise Bourgeois (1911–2010) is one of the world’s most respected artists. Powerfully inventive, Bourgeois always worked at the forefront of contemporary art during a career that lasted from the 1930s until 2010. She was inspired by most of the twentieth century avant-garde movements but remained genuinely individual in her her bold treatment of major themes related to psychoanalysis, including family relationships, sexuality, and emotions such as anxiety, jealousy, loneliness and grief.

Bourgeois is maybe best known for her Cells, grand scale sculptural installations she started to make in the 90s. In addition to Celle VIII (1998), the sculptures Quarantania (1947–53) and Fée Couturière (1963) are on display, along with the print series He Disappeared into Complete Silence, which Bourgeois worked on for several decades (1947–2005).

Human beings and architecture

A recurring motif in Louise Bourgeois’ works was the relation between human beings and architecture. Celle VIII is part of a substantial series of installations from the 1990s, in which the artist explores the house as a symbolic space. The cells consist of large, cage-like structures made ​​of glass or steel mesh, and contain sculptures, objects and textiles from her life.

Architecture had been a source of inspiration for Bourgeois since the 1940s. Quarantania, from the Personages series, is one of her most widely discussed sculptures. The earliest works in the series were fashioned in wood and resembled American Indian totem poles, but the skyscrapers of New York were also an important influence. For her work on Personages, Bourgeois used the roof of Stuyvesant’s Folly, the large brownstone apartment building where she lived after moving from Paris to the «New World». At the same time, Bourgeois began working on her graphic series He Disappeared Into Complete Silence, featuring thorne-like architectural structures and claustrophobic interiors.

Unnerving and claustrophobic

The hanging sculpture Fée Couturière, created during a period when Bourgeois worked with latex and clay, is reminiscent of a hive, but at the same time remains elusive. The unpolished surface gives the impression of being unfinished. It suggests something organic in the process of moving, rather than a completed sculpture in the traditional sense.

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.

With their ambivalence between conveying both protection and threat, there is something uncomfortable and claustrophobic about all of Bourgeois’ “dwellings”. The present selection of works on view reveals Bourgeois’ broad stylistic and expressive range and her continued interest in human beings and architecture.

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