Louise Bourgeois – Redemption through art



The life of Louise BOURGEOIS was rich with 70 years of creativity. The artist, who died aged 98 on 31 May 2010, was consulted by young artists in her New York studio up until her last years. French by birth, Louise Bourgeois obtained legitimate recognition in the United States where she lived and worked for forty years. In 1982, the Museum of Modern Art of New York City presented a retrospective of her work. In 2009, she was honoured by the National Women’s Hall of Fame along with nine American citizens for having marked the history of the United States.

Possessing exceptional psychological intuition, the work of Louise Bourgeois was constantly focused on analysing and deconstructing universal themes, human relations, eroticism, love and frustration between lovers or family members… expressing a range of emotions including malice, anger and tenderness. Art, “a guarantee of mental health”, allowed her to transform her demons into allies.

Her notoriety is also reflected in the prices of her work which gained 307% between 2004 and January 2009. The number of her works changing hands for 7-figure sums considerably accelerated over this period: in 2006 only one sculpture fetched more than a million dollars, then three in 2007 and six in 2008. Moribund in 2009, the market was less dynamic and the crisis kept her most expensive works away from the secondary market. Nevertheless, the results obtained in 2009 bore witness to collector’s unflagging interest in her work. On 25 June 2009, her Portrait fetched triple its low estimate. This blue doll evoking a small goddess of fecundity is perched on a glass cell echoing her obsessive and ambivalent theme of the ‘house’. The winning bidder went all the way to £330,000 ($544,000) to obtain this piece.

Collectors have a particularly strong appetite for her spiders, metaphorical and protective figures of the ‘weaving mother’. In 2006, Christie’s sold a bronze Spider measuring over two metres for $3.6m (€2.8m) whereas a year earlier at Sotheby’s NY, a similar giant spider fetched just $2.7m. Louise Bourgeois’ auction record was generated by another spider which fetched €2.55m on 27 May ($4m) at Christie’s Paris.

Her drawings change hands for between ten and sixty thousand dollars on average. Small format works or academic charcoal drawings from the 1930s can be obtained for between $8,000 and $9,500. On the day she died, Christie’s Paris sold a calligraphic drawing on the theme of Desire: le désir est mon ami. Il est couleur du ciel et de tes yeux, t’attend et puis j’entends tes pas et puis ta voix (€14,500).

Her numerous prints (49% of her auction transactions) sell for between $1,000 and $6,000 on average. On 2 May 2010 in Cannes, a lithograph entitled Feuille representing two red branches joined in a circle sold for €800 (56/146 ex.).