Louise Bourgeois | Louisiana | VisitCopenhagen

LOUISIANA PRESENTS: Louise Bourgeois' Structures of Existence: The Cells

Louisiana’s big autumn exhibition Louise Bourgeois. Structures of Existence: The Cells, presents one of the most striking and influential visual artists of the twentieth century. Over a period of some 70 years Louise Bourgeois (1911, Paris - 2010, New York) created a comprehensive oeuvre spanning a wide range of materials and forms, emotions and moods.
Thursday, September 29, 2016

The exhibition concentrates on one of Bourgeois’ most original work types: the Cells. The name cell plays on all the meanings of the word – from prison cell to monk’s cell to the smallest elements of life in the body. Each work is an independent spatial installation filled with carefully arranged objects which, in interaction with cell walls of glass, wire mesh or old doors, create psychologically tense and sensual scenarios.

The membrane between life and art is thin for Bourgeois. Personal history, pain and passion fuel art in which she reworks family traumas and the relationship with her parents and between the genders with equal proportions of fragile hypersensitivity and raw ruthlessness.

The Cells are situated in an original place somewhere between architecture, environment and sculpture, and in a broad sense are about the connections among body, architecture, objects and memory.

Today it is not possible to enter all the Cells, although that was originally the artist’s intention. We are kept on the margins of the intimate spaces and can look in through openings and cracks like curious voyeurs. Many of the symbols used are standard and accessible, and everyone can immediately recognize the difference between closed and open spaces, hard and soft materials, smashed and intact windowpanes, tense and relaxed limbs. With everyday objects familiar to our bodies and our experience – beds, tables, chairs, perfume bottles, clothes – the Cells stand as alien yet recognizable scenarios that freely admit our own interpretations.

Louise Bourgeois lived to the age of 98, and in the last twenty years of her career she began in earnest to work in large formats with among other works the Cells after she obtained her first real studio in 1980 in a closed-down garment factory in Brooklyn, New York. The size of the place enabled her to create works on a much larger scale than before, when the artist had worked in her private home. Objects from the abandoned factory as well as doors, windows and other found elements from containers and clearance work around New York became important artistic material for the Cells. These things, with their clear traces of the passage of time and previous use, are combined with sculptural elements made by Bourgeois herself, and this combination of objets trouvés and her own sculptures is a consistent feature of the Cells.

Cells of varying characters follow. Some have solid, others have transparent cell walls, and the sizes vary.
Different spaces and spatial metaphors are brought into play, and objects and moods change – from the simple and poetic to the surreal and raw.

Bourgeois created a total of 62 Cells, including five works she herself regarded as direct predecessors. At Louisiana 25 of these are shown, from the earliest to the last. This is the first time so many Cells have been brought together in one exhibition. In addition we are showing a concentrated selection of smaller works, most of which are gathered in a small ‘Wunderkammer’. Here too are some of the artist’s so-called ‘
personage’ sculptures from the 1940s. Many of the same motifs and themes recur throughout the oeuvre, whether they are unfolded in graphic works, small sculptures or in the spatial assemblages of the Cells.

The exhibition has been organized by Haus der Kunst in Munich in collaboration with the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art in Moscow, the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao and the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Humlebæk. With special thanks to The Louise Bourgeois Trust and The Easton Foundation.

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Susanne Hartz, Head of Press: press@louis...

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Exhibited pieces
  • Articulated Lair, 1986

Gift of Lily Auchincloss; and of the artist in honor of Deborah Wye (by exchange), 1993

  • No Escape, 1989

Kouri Collection

  • Cell I, 1991

Private Collection. Courtesy Hauser & Wirth

  • Cell II, 1991

Heinz Family Fund, 91.24

  • Cell III, 1991


  • Cell IV, 1991

Collection Louise Bourgeois Trust

  • Cell V, 1991

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York

  • Cell VI, 1991

Collection Louise Bourgeois Trust

  • Cell (Choisy), 1990–93


  • Red Room (Child), 1994

Collection Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal

  • Red Room (Parents), 1994

Private Collection. Courtesy Hauser & Wirth

  • In and Out, 1995

Collection The Easton Foundation

  • Spider, 1997

Collection The Easton Foundation

  • Cell VII, 1998

Private Collection. Courtesy Hauser & Wirth

  • Cell IX, 1999

D.Daskalopoulos Collection

  • Cell XII (Portrait), 2000

Private Collection. Courtesy Hauser & Wirth

  • Cell XVIII (Portrait), 2000

Private Collection, New York

  • Cell XXI (Portrait), 2000

Collection The Easton Foundation

  • Cell XXII (Portrait), 2000

Private Collection. Courtesy Hauser & Wirth

  • Cell XXIII (Portrait), 2000

Private Collection. Courtesy Hauser & Wirth

  • The Confessional, 2001

Collection The Easton Foundation

  • Lady in Waiting, 2003

Collection The Easton Foundation

  • Cell XXVI, 2003

Collection Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, The Hague, The Netherlands

  • Peaux de lapins, chiffons ferrailles à vendre, 2006

Collection The Easton Foundation

  • Cell (The Last Climb), 2008

Purchased 2010

Dronning Louises Bridge

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