Contemporary Art Installation
A collaboration between NEON and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center
Louise Bourgeois's monumental sculpture Maman (1999) is brought to the Greek public by NEON and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC). This iconic giant spider — one of the works that made the artist internationally famous — will be on display at SNFCC’s Esplanade for a seven-month period, with free entry to the public.
Collaborating for the first time, the two institutions aim to bring contemporary art closer to everyone, while fulfilling their goals of revitalising public space and improving citizens’ daily life.
The SNFCC's participation in the Maman installation is made possible by a recent grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) for the SNFCC’s 2022 operations and programming.
Through her art, Louise Bourgeois expressed her innermost thoughts and fears, worked through problems, and gave form to her emotions. In prints, drawings, textiles, installation, and, most famously, sculpture, Bourgeois explored themes of guilt, fear, memory, motherhood, and love.
Bourgeois’s art was informed by her life, particularly her childhood years. She first made drawings of spiders in the late 1940s, and nearly 50 years later created the giant three-dimensional spiders for which she has become well-known.
Maman, standing at over 10 metres tall, was created for the Tate Modern’s first Turbine Hall commission in 2000, and was subsequently cast in an edition of bronze, stainless steel, and marble.
Bourgeois stated that the work was symbolic of her mother, a weaver and tapestry restorer. With twenty eggs in its abdomen, the sculpture embodies ideas of maternal protection. However, the artist’s relationship to motherhood was ambiguous, contradictory, and complex. Dominating its surroundings and teetering on rangy, segmented legs, Maman also evokes fear and suggests entrapment.
Louise Bourgeois was born in Paris on Christmas Day 1911, the second of three children in a family that restored and sold medieval and Renaissance tapestries. Strong references to her childhood are manifested in her artwork, and stem from her relationship with a domineering, irascible father and the profound effects of her mother’s illness and subsequent death. After studying geometry at the Sorbonne, Bourgeois changed her focus to art. In 1938, she moved to New York with her husband Robert Goldwater, an American art historian. In the mid-1940s, she made four now-iconic paintings titled Femme Maison that deal with issues of female identity. Around the same time, she began her first sculptures, the Personages, a series of anthropomorphic but abstract figures carved out of wood. In the 1960s, she created biomorphic, corporeal works made of organic, pliable materials—plaster, latex, rubber, and poured resin. In the 1970s—after her husband’s death—and via the work The Destruction of the Father (1974), she reinvented herself as a pioneer of installation, an artform she explored further from 1991 until her death in her series of Cells. These disquieting architectural environments were filled with objects from the artist’s past alongside her sculpture.
Despite working as a contemporary artist across seven decades, it was not until Bourgeois was 71 years of age, when she was the first female sculptor to have a retrospective at MoMA (1982), that her work attracted mainstream attention and recognition. Today, her work is in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, the Tate Gallery in London, and the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, among many others. In 2022, an exhibition of her paintings will be on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
To promote access to the arts, the installation at the SNFCC will be accompanied by a wealth of parallel programming made possible by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation’s (SNF) grant, which will include readings, educational and school programs, workshops for children and adults, and guided tours.
Daily from 30/03 to 06/11/2022 | 00.00-00.00
*Louise Bourgeois, Maman (1999) presented by NEON and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center at the SNFCC, Athens Greece, 2022.
Photograph: Nikos Karanikolas © The Easton Foundation/ Licensed by OSDEETE/ ΟΣΔΕΕΤΕ, Athens, Greece and VAGA at ARS, NY, USA