Under The Hammer

Louise Bourgeois has set a record-breaking sale at Sotheby’s
By Ella Joyce | Art | 19 May 2023

Louise Bourgeois, ‘Spider’, 1996. Photo by Edouard Fraipont, Courtesy of Sotheby’s

As one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, Louise Bourgeois’ instantly recognisable work has earned her the title of a reluctant hero of feminist art. Proving her influence still pervades, her 1996 sculpture Spider has just set a new record for a sculpture by a woman artist at a Sotheby’s auction in New York City. Standing at over ten feet tall and eighteen feet wide, the bronze spider sold for $32.8 million, while Georgia O’Keefe’s 1936 painting Jimson Weed currently holds the record for the most expensive work by a woman ever sold at auction.

Louise Bourgeois, Spider, 1997. © The Easton Foundation/Licensed by DACS, UK. Photo: Erika Ede, Bilbao

Articulating her lived experience as a woman through a practice spanning painting, printmaking and sculpture, Bourgeois did not begin crafting her arachnid creations until she was in her 80s yet the giant creatures have become her most best known works of art.

Kelsey Leonard, head of Sotheby’s Contemporary Evening Auction in New York, said in a statement, “Bourgeois’ Spiders are undoubtedly a real masterpiece of 20th-century art. Beloved across the globe, these powerful yet tender sculptures hold a commanding presence, one that was on full display in our galleries this season.”

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