The work of iconic French-American artist Louise Bourgeois (1911–2010) will take centre stage in Sydney this summer, as the Art Gallery of New South Wales presents the largest and most comprehensive display of the artist’s work ever seen in the Asia Pacific, Louise Bourgeois: Has the Day Invaded the Night or Has the Night Invaded the Day?, as part of the Sydney International Art Series 2023–24.
The exhibition will include the first presentation in Australia of Bourgeois’s world-famous and seminal sculpture Maman 1999, an ode to the artist’s mother, who she described as “deliberate, clever, patient, soothing…and [as] useful as a spider.”
Made of bronze, steel and marble, the monumental spider, which stands more than nine metres high and 10 metres wide, will be installed on the forecourt of the Art Gallery’s South Building as an unmissable first encounter with the work of this trailblazing artist.
“We are proud that the subject of our first major solo exhibition in our new SANAA-designed North Building, almost one year since opening, is the great Louise Bourgeois,” said Art Gallery of New South Wales director Michael Brand.
“We are honoured to introduce this deeply influential artist to new generations, and to have the opportunity to share the strange beauty and emotional power of her art with Sydney.”
“The scale of this exhibition, which is one of the most extensive ever dedicated to an international woman artist in Australia, demonstrates our commitment to revealing the depth and complexity of the artistic careers we explore and our commitment to celebrating the work of women artists in our collection and exhibitions.”
“We are proud to bring Maman, the largest spider sculpture ever made by Bourgeois, to Sydney for the very first time, and to be showcasing the extraordinary breadth of the artist’s practice, which includes fabric sculpture, works on paper, bronzes, works from her series of Cells, mechanised sculpture, and more,” said Brand.
Born in Paris in 1911 and living and working in New York until her death in 2010, Bourgeois is renowned for her fearless exploration of human relationships across a relentlessly inventive seven-decade career.
Moving from the South Building forecourt, to the white rooms of ‘Day’, on lower level 2 of the Art Gallery’s North Building, then to the darkened terrain of ‘Night’, downstairs in the Tank, a former Second World War fuel bunker, viewers will encounter more than 120 works, including many never seen before in Australia, among them, The Destruction of the Father, 1974, and one of the largest works to be presented in the Tank, Crouching Spider, 2003.
Louise Bourgeois: Has the Day Invaded the Night or Has the Night Invaded the Day? reveals the extraordinary reach and intensity of Bourgeois’s art, from her haunting Personage sculptures of the 1940s to her tough yet tender textile works of the 1990s and 2000s. It also reveals, as never before, the psychological tensions that powered her search, through a dramatic presentation in two contrasting exhibition spaces.
Upstairs, viewers will encounter important yet seldom seen works such as Clouds and Caverns, 1982-89 and the fabric suite The Waiting Hours, 2007. Downstairs, viewers will encounter works such as Arch of Hysteria, 1993 and the immense mirror sculpture that gives the exhibition its name, alongside projections of the artist’s psychoanalytic writings.
“Visitors are invited to join us on an emotional journey through the highs and lows, intensities and polarities, memories and fantasies of the artist. Bourgeois is an artist of extremes, of opposed yet intertwined impulses – obsessed with the complicated and contradictory truth of our feelings towards ourselves and others,” said Exhibition curator, Art Gallery of New South Wales head curator of international art, Justin Paton.
“Her work maintained – and still delivers – a charge of intimacy, urgency and piercing peculiarity. Far from being a distant and admirable monument, Bourgeois comes to us as a contemporary – someone working through unfinished business about womanhood and selfhood today.”
The exhibition, realised in close collaboration with The Easton Foundation, New York, which administers Bourgeois’ legacy, is the outcome of a conversation that began in 2016 with the acquisition of Bourgeois’s Arched Figure, 1993, through the financial support of the Art Gallery of New South Wales Foundation.
The Easton Foundation is pleased to collaborate with the Art Gallery of New South Wales on this timely and important exhibition. The beautiful new SANAA building and the dramatic and evocative Tank space offer a unique opportunity to explore the constitutive contradictions that undergird Bourgeois’s art and to present the full range of her creative output, from sculpture, painting, and drawing to audio recordings, film projections, and writings,” said The Easton Foundation curator Philip Larratt-Smith.
Louise Bourgeois: Has the Day Invaded the Night or Has the Night Invaded the Day? is proudly supported by the NSW Government through its tourism and major events agency, Destination NSW, as part of the Sydney International Art Series, bringing the world’s most outstanding exhibitions to Australia, exclusively to Sydney.
“Louise Bourgeois is a highly influential international artist. This exhibition, which includes the first chance to see one of Bourgeois’s best-known works, Maman on Australian soil, is a major coup for the Art Gallery and Sydney,” said Minister for Arts, Music, Night-time Economy, Jobs and Tourism John Graham.
“The Sydney International Arts Series is part of why NSW can boast being home to Australia’s creative capital and increasingly, a global hub for cultural experiences.”
Special contributions by renowned American artist Jenny Holzer, drawing on Bourgeois’s remarkable diaries and psychoanalytic writings, and American composer and musician Kali Malone will enrich the exhibition, along with rare videos and voice recordings of the artist.
A richly illustrated publication will be released alongside the exhibition, featuring contributions by filmmaker Jane Campion, author Chris Kraus, psychoanalyst Jamieson Webster and curator Justin Paton, and writings by the artist selected by curator Philip Larratt-Smith.
Sydney International Art Series is a NSW Government initiative through its tourism and major events agency, Destination NSW, in collaboration with the Art Gallery of New South Wales and Museum of Contemporary Art Australia to bring the world’s most outstanding international artists and their works exclusively to Sydney.
Louise Bourgeois: Has the Day Invaded the Night or Has the Night Invaded the Day?
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery Road, The Domain, Sydney
Exhibition: 25 November 2023 – 28 April 2024
Entry fees apply
For more information, visit: www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au for details
Images: Louise Bourgeois, Clouds and Caverns, 1982–89, metal, wood, 274.3 x 553.7 x 182.9 cm, Collection The Easton Foundation, New York, courtesy Kunstmuseum Den Haag © The Easton Foundation – photo by Christopher Burke | Louise Bourgeois, Crouching Spider, 2003, bronze, brown and polished patina, stainless steel, 270.5 x 835.7 x 627.4 cm, Collection The Easton Foundation, New York © The Easton Foundation – photo by Ron Amstutz