Louise Bourgeois, one of the greatest and most influential artists of our time, has made a gift of one of her works to the Irish Museum of Modern Art. The work, Untitled, 2001, is one of the artist’s characteristic front-facing fabric heads, which is displayed in a glass vitrine. The head is one of a suite of seven, each unique, made from a soft pink material, originally one of Bourgeois’ jackets. The work, including the vitrine, measures just over 177 cms in height.
The gift has been made in recognition of the success of the Louise Bourgeois: Stitches in Time exhibition, which was organised by the Museum and was shown at IMMA from November 2003 to February 2004 to great popular and critical acclaim. The exhibition included three similar fabric heads. Sewn with a simplicity that belies their structural sophistication, Bourgeois’ heads are nevertheless uncannily lifelike – with open mouths, and eyes focussed directly on the viewer or deliberately glancing away. They are difficult works to confront; a difficulty compounded by the mute and resistant glass cases which encase them.
Stitches in Time was the largest exhibition of Bourgeois’ work ever staged in Ireland. In addition to the fabric heads, it also included a series of cell-like vitrines housing curious scenes of ecstasy and torture; a group of totemic figures, reinterpreting in fabric her early sculptures from the 1940s and ’50s, and a selection of graphic works. Following its showing at IMMA, the exhibition travelled to the Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh; the CAC, Centro de Arte Contemporăneo de Malaga, Spain, and to the Miami Museum of Contemporary Art, USA. A hugely-popular catalogue, published by IMMA to accompany the exhibition, was reprinted twice due to popular demand and was translated into Spanish for the exhibition in Malaga.
Welcoming the gift IMMA Director, Enrique Juncosa, said, “This generous gift by Louise Bourgeois is a wonderful addition to IMMA’s sculpture collection. As one of the most important artists of our time, her works command prices which would be well beyond our acquisitions budget. We are all delighted that Louise’s generosity will allow the Irish public to enjoy her work on an ongoing basis. We hope to install the sculpture in the West Wing Galleries by the end of the year, alongside other newly-acquired works, such as James Coleman’s filmwork, Initials. The gift is also a tribute to the work of the Museum’s Exhibitions Department, which has managed to tour IMMA shows to Britain, Italy, Spain, Iceland and the US in the past year, and has further tours scheduled to Britain, France, Belgium, Portugal and the US over the coming months. The Bourgeois piece is the latest in a series of important acquisitions of sculptures by Michael Craig-Martin, Gary Hume, Cristina Iglesias and Alice Maher.”
Born in Paris in 1911, during the heyday of Cubism, Louise Bourgeois moved to New York in 1938, where she continues to live and work. Her career has spanned seven decades and several artistic movements, including Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism and Minimalism, all of which she engaged with, but none of which adequately contain or describe her work. Over this time she has built up a complex and beguiling body of work, primarily concerned with sculpture – created from an extraordinary array of materials – but also including drawing, painting, printmaking and installation. Autobiography and identity have been important influences on her practice, as have her family connections with furniture and tapestry making, still evident in her work. Bourgeois was the first woman artist to be given a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. One of her most celebrated projects was I Do, IUndo, I Redo, an installation comprising three nine-metre-high steel towers which she was commissioned to create for the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern to mark the opening of that museum in 2000.
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