Guggenheim Bilbao Showcases Louise Bourgeois’s Emotionally Evocative Cells

One of the twentieth century’s most influential contemporary artists has made her way into the Guggenheim’s outpost in Bilbao, Spain. The late Louise Bourgeois, continually recognized for her extensive oeuvre of awe-inspiring installations that delve into death, the subconscious, and sexuality, also extended her artistic prowess into exploring how architectural space evokes emotion. Organized in collaboration with Haus der Kunst, the Guggenheim is showcasing Structures of Existence: Cellsa sophisticated set of 28 theatrical environments—in the most thorough overview of Bourgeois' evocative series to date.


Infused with psychoanalytic themes, Cells takes a deep-dive into the concepts that haunted her psyche throughout her final two decades—a specter of the inevitable—by inviting the viewer to peer inside microcosmic enclosures. Bourgeois arranged objects found near her Brooklyn studio ranging from furniture, a water tank, and even a spiral staircase, revealing key aspects of how she evaluated space and memory. One Cell features a poignant recreation of her parents’ furniture restoration workshop, a backdrop to a suicide attempt in her early 20s that left a lasting inspiration on her later work. In another, her architectonic Spider (arguably her magnum opus) appears to encroach on the cell’s wire frame to conjure fear and frustration through arachnophobia and imprisonment.


Bourgeois died in 2010 after a career spanning over seven decades. Galleries and public spaces worldwide frequently showcase her increasingly sought-after work. In October 2014, New York-based Cheim & Read exhibited Suspension, a series of her hanging sculptures heavy in weight—physical and emotional—that successfully morph both human corporeality and our idea of the traditionally static base sculpture. A year later, Christie’s auctioned an iteration of Spider at its headquarters in Rockefeller Center. 


Guggenheim Bilbao will exhibit Structures of Existence: Cells through September 4, 2016.

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