Louise Bourgeois
The Nest, 1994

The Nest is one of the earliest and most complex of the spider sculptures that Bourgeois created between 1994 and 1997. It blends sculpture with drawing through its ingenious use of legs as both sculptural objects and lines in space. Bourgeois repeatedly explored the spider, her self-selected totem figure, because of its power to intermingle two- and three-dimensional relationships. “What is a drawing?” asks Bourgeois. “It is a secretion, like a thread in a spider’s web . . . . It is a knitting, a spiral, a spider web, a significant organization of space.”

The spider first appeared in Bourgeois’ drawings of the 1930s and 1940s, but it wasn’t until sixty years later that she adopted it as the subject of her sculpture. She has mused, “Spider: the mother cuts the spider’s web . . . . The friend (spider; why spider?). Because my best friend was my mother, and she was . . . (as) clever, patient and neat as a spider; she could also defend herself.” The mother figure in this sculpture nurtures and protects her brood while exuding a threatening presence. The spider may also be a self-portrait of the artist in her intertwined roles as mother and daughter, and as creator of works that are both seductive and menacing.

Artwork Info

Artwork title
The Nest
Artist name
Louise Bourgeois
Date created
1994
Classification
sculpture
Medium
steel
Dimensions
101 in. x 189 in. x 158 in. (256.54 cm x 480.06 cm x 401.32 cm)
Date Acquired
1998
Credit
Collection SFMOMA
Purchase through the Agnes E. Meyer and Elise S. Haas Fund and the gifts of Doris and Donald Fisher, Helen and Charles Schwab, and Vicki and Kent Logan
Copyright
© The Easton Foundation/Licensed by VAGA at ARS, New York, NY
Permanent URL
https://www.sfmoma.org/artwork/98.193.A-E
Artwork Status
Not on view at this time.

Throughout her long career, sculptor Louise Bourgeois was known for haunting, biomorphic forms that communicated themes from her inner life and family history.

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