Louise Bourgeois Spiders

October 7, 2017–July 14, 2019
Floor 5

Louise Bourgeois created the first of her darkly compelling spider sculptures in the mid-1990s, when she was in her eighties. The artist saw spiders as both fierce and fragile, capable of being protectors as well as predators. For Bourgeois, the spider embodied an intricate and sometimes contradictory mix of psychological and biographical allusions. Partly a reference to her mother, partly to herself, spiders for her represented cleverness, industriousness, and protectiveness. Filling the museum’s sculpture gallery on Floor 5, Louise Bourgeois Spiders explores the captivating complexity of the artist’s conception of these elegant and fearsome creatures, with works sculpted in a range of materials and scales, from the intimate to the monumental.

Exhibition Preview

A large metal sculpture of a spider with smaller metal spider sculptures nested between its legs
A cast metal spider
A sculpture with sliver legs and a fabric body shaped like a kneeling human

Louise Bourgeois, The Nest, 1994; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 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; © The Easton Foundation/Licensed by VAGA, NY; photo: Ben Blackwell

Louise Bourgeois, Spider I, 1995, cast 1996; the Doris and Donald Fisher Collection at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; © The Easton Foundation/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

Louise Bourgeois, Spider, 2003; gift of Helen and Charles Schwab through The Art Supporting Foundation; © The Easton Foundation/Licensed by VAGA, NY; photo: Christopher Burke

Header image: Louise Bourgeois Spiders (installation view, SFMOMA), 2017; photo: Katherine Du Tiel