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Art & Culture

Louise Bourgeois’ Iconic “Spider” Sculpture Anticipates Record-Breaking Sale at Sotheby’s

  • Craig Miller
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  • April 28, 2023
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  • 2 minute read
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Louise Bourgeois’ Iconic “Spider” Sculpture Anticipates Record-Breaking Sale at Sotheby’s

Key Takeaways
  • Louise Bourgeois' "Spider" sculpture from 1996 is expected to be sold for between $30 million and $40 million at Sotheby's New York, potentially breaking records for the most expensive sculpture by a female artist and most expensive work by a woman sold at auction.
  • The "Spider" sculptures are part of Bourgeois' iconic series and are on display in leading cultural institutions worldwide, symbolizing motherhood and traits admired by the artist in her own mother.
  • The sale of the "Spider" sculpture will support Fundação Itaú's efforts to prioritize collecting works by Brazilian artists that reflect the nation's cultural heritage.
  • Louise Bourgeois was a French-American artist known for her large-scale sculptures and installations that address themes of sexuality, the body, and personal history, and she is a prominent figure in the art world.
  • The sculpture will be on display at Sotheby's headquarters in New York on May 6, with the auction scheduled for May 18.

The Spider Crawls to Auction

Louise Bourgeois’ famed 1996 “Spider” sculpture is set to hit the auction block next month at Sotheby’s New York, with an expected price tag between $30 million and $40 million.

The work’s sale could break several records, including the most expensive sculpture by a female artist ever sold at auction, as well as potentially the most expensive work by a woman ever sold at auction.

Bourgeois’ current auction record stands at $28 million, achieved by another “Spider” in 2019.

A Global Icon

The “Spider” series of sculptures is iconic, with installations on display in leading cultural institutions around the world, including the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, the Dia Art Foundation in New York, the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, and Tate Modern in London. 

David Galperin, Sotheby’s head of contemporary art in New York, describes the “Spider” as “a paragon of modern sculpture” that has taken on a larger symbolic presence in contemporary culture internationally.

The “Spider” series of sculptures is iconic, with installations on display in leading cultural institutions around the world, including the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, the Dia Art Foundation in New York, the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, and Tate Modern in London. 

Art with a Deeper Meaning

The ten-foot-tall and 18-feet wide “Spider” comes from the collection of Fundação Itaú, the philanthropic wing of Brazilian bank Itaú Unibanco.

The sculpture debuted in the 1996 Bienal de São Paulo and was later acquired by Olavo Setubal, a collector and cofounder of the bank.

The spiders in Bourgeois’ series are a symbol of motherhood, representing traits the artist admired in her own mother, such as patience, subtlety, and usefulness.

Supporting Brazilian Art

The sale of the “Spider” sculpture will support Fundação Itaú’s efforts to shift its collecting priorities towards works by Brazilian artists.

The non-profit organization seeks to focus on art that reflects the nation’s unique cultural heritage.

The sculpture will be on display at Sotheby’s headquarters in New York on May 6, with the auction set to take place during the house’s marquee evening sale of contemporary art on May 18.

A Legacy of Artistic Influence

Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010) was a French-American artist known for her large-scale sculptures and installations.

Her work has been influential in modern and contemporary art, often addressing themes of sexuality, the body, and personal history.

Bourgeois was born in Paris and moved to New York in 1938, where she spent most of her life. 

Her work has been exhibited in prestigious museums and galleries worldwide, earning her numerous accolades and establishing her as a prominent figure in the art world.

Craig Miller

Craig Miller

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