Louise Bourgeois - Editions & Works on Paper New York Tuesday, April 16, 2024 | Phillips
  • “Spirals are a plea. Today I am No. 1 personality... tomorrow, I am No. 2. They are a plea to be accepted with many different moods... a plea for love.”
    —Louise Bourgeois 
    Within Louise Bourgeois’s overall investigation of abstract motifs, the spiral holds a distinct place, recurring across her oeuvre. The spiral manifests in segmented wood sculptures of the 1950s, a plaster, tomb-like mound from the 1960s, a hanging bronze sculpture in the 1980s, and in a 1990 performance piece She Lost It, in which Bourgeois wrapped and unwrapped performers in a spiraling gauze banner measuring nearly 200 feet long. 


    Bourgeois’ earliest encounter with the spiral form occurred in childhood, watching workers in her family’s tapestry restoration business wash tapestries in the river then fiercely wring them out, a memory Bourgeois has described as morphing into a visually parallel fantasy of wringing the neck of someone she despised. The spiral continued to function as a visual metaphor for a range of Bourgeois’ varying emotions across her life and the strategy she evolved to be tolerated, accepted and loved despite her oscillating moods. 

    “The spiral is an attempt at controlling the chaos.”
    —Louise Bourgeois  

    Bourgeois stressed the spiral’s two opposing directions: inward and outward. The outward movement represented “giving, and giving up control, trust and positive energy….” While the winding in of the spiral embodied “a tightening, a retreating, a compacting to the point of disappearance.” She said, “You can get twisted and strangled by your emotions.” Always reflecting her volatile temperament, Bourgeois’s spirals are endlessly variable—as coils of tension, protective cocoons, and even entrapping spider webs.

    • Literature

      Museum of Modern Art Cat. No. 1056

    • Artist Biography

      Louise Bourgeois

      French-American • 1911 - 2010

      Known for her idiosyncratic style, Louise Bourgeois was a pioneering and iconic figure of twentieth and early twenty-first century art. Untied to an art historical movement, Bourgeois was a singular voice, both commanding and quiet.

      Bourgeois was a prolific printmaker, draftsman, sculptor and painter. She employed diverse materials including metal, fabric, wood, plaster, paper and paint in a range of scale — both monumental and intimate. She used recurring themes and subjects (animals, insects, architecture, the figure, text and abstraction) as form and metaphor to explore the fragility of relationships and the human body. Her artworks are meditations of emotional states: loneliness, jealousy, pride, anger, fear, love and longing.

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Ambition (MoMA 1056)

Drypoint, on wove paper, with full margins.
I. 5 x 7 in. (12.7 x 17.8 cm)
S. 14 x 19 1/2 in. (35.6 x 49.5 cm)

Unsigned, one of four known impressions, printed by Harlan & Weaver, New York, unpublished, framed.

Full Cataloguing

$3,000 - 5,000 

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Editions & Works on Paper

New York Auction 16 - 17 April