Now THIS is scary! Canada joined the elite group of really BIG art connoisseurs when we bought our very own COPY for a mere $3.2 million in 2005. Why!?
Maman (1999) is a sculpture by the artist Louise Bourgeois. The sculpture, which resembles a spider, is amongst the world’s largest, measuring over 30 ft high and over 33 ft wide, with a sac containing 26 marble eggs. Its abdomen and thorax are made up of ribbed bronze. The title is the familiar French word for Mother. The sculpture was created by Bourgeois as a part of her inaugural commission of The Unilever Series in 1999 for Tate Modern’s vast Turbine Hall.
Philosophy and Meaning
The sculpture picks up the theme of the arachnid that Bourgeois had first contemplated in a small ink and charcoal drawing in 1947. It alludes to the strength of Bourgeois’ mother, with metaphors of spinning, weaving, nurture and protection.Her mother Josephine was a woman who repaired tapestries in her father’s textile restoration workshop in Paris.Bourgeois lost her mother at the age of twenty-one. A few days afterwards, in front of her father who did not seem to take his daughter’s despair seriously, she threw herself into the Bièvre River; he swam to her rescue.
The Spider is an ode to my mother. She was my best friend. Like a spider, my mother was a weaver. My family was in the business of tapestry restoration, and my mother was in charge of the workshop. Like spiders, my mother was very clever. Spiders are friendly presences that eat mosquitoes. We know that mosquitoes spread diseases and are therefore unwanted. So, spiders are helpful and protective, just like my mother.
— Louise Bourgeois
- Tate Modern, UK – Acquiring this sculpture is considered one of the Tate Modern’s historical moments. Maman was first displayed outside the gallery in 2000. It was received with the mixed reactions of amazement and amusement. The sculpture owned by the Tate Modern is the only one made from stainless steel.
- National Gallery of Canada, Canada – The National Gallery of Canada acquired the sculpture in 2005 for 3.2 million dollars. At that time, the price was deemed excessive by some critics, as it took around the third of the annual budget of the gallery.
- State Hermitage Museum, Russia
- Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Spain
- Mori Art Museum, Japan
- Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, South Korea
- Qatar National Convention Center, Qatar – The Maman sculpture found a permanent home at the Qatar National Convention Centre in 2012. It is the centerpiece of the Conscious and Unconscious exhibit – the first solo exhibit of Bourgeois’ work to be displayed in the Middle East. The exhibit was organised by the Qatar Museums Authority.
Bronze statues of Spider sculpture have also been temporarily placed in:
- City Hall, The Hague, The Netherlands, 2001
- Nytorv, Copenhagen, Denmark, 2003
- Mariakerke, Ostend, Belgium, 2006
- Embarcadero, San Francisco, California, USA, November 2007 – 24 April 2009
- Jardin des Tuileries, Paris, France, 2008
- Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France, 2008
- Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, Massachusetts, USA, 27 March 2007 – 2 March 2008
- Museo di Capodimonte, Naples, Italy, 18 October 2008 – 25 January 2009
- Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C., USA, 2009
- Fundación Proa, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 2011
- Museu de Arte Moderna (MAM), São Paulo, Brasil, 2011
- Bundesplatz, Bern, Switzerland, 24 May 2011 – 7 June 2011
- Bürkliplatz, Zürich, Switzerland, 10 June 2011 – 2 August 2011
- Place Neuve, Geneva, Switzerland, 3 August 2011 – 28 August 2011
- Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel, Switzerland, 3 September 2011 – 8 January 2012
- Kunsthalle, Hamburg, Germany, 23 January 2012 – 17 June 2012
Bourgeois’s 2006 sales made her the best-paid living woman artist after a buyer paid $4 million for an 8-foot spider at Christie’s in London. She eclipsed the record in 2008, when another spider fetched $4.5 million. In 2011, $10.7 million at auction made a new record price for the artist, against an estimate of $4 million to $6 million. This is the highest price paid for a work by a woman artist.