LOUISE BOURGEOIS INSIDE (ARTICULATED LAIR) (COLL.: MOMA, NEW YORK) IN 1986 1986 Photo: © Peter Bellamy © The Easton Foundation / VEGAP, Madrid
STRUCTURES OF EXISTENCE: THE CELLS
GUGGENHEIM MUSEUM BILBAO, SPAIN
18 MARCH - 4 SEPTEMBER 2016
Louise Bourgeois’s (1911-2010) concepts and formal inventions have been seminal in the development of contemporary art. A prime example of this is her series Cells, comprising approximately 60 unique pieces begun in 1986. Structures of Existence presents a broad selection of these innovative sculptural works, developed by Bourgeois over the course of two decades. Visitors will be able to discover and experience 28 emotionally charged architectural spaces, each an individual microcosm separating the internal from the external world. The exhibition, organized in collaboration with the Haus der Kunst in Munich, reunites Cells I to VI for the first time since 1991, when they were first shown at the Carnegie International in Pittsburgh.
The exhibition in Bilbao is made possible by the sponsorship of Fundación BBVA.
Promoting the generation of knowledge and innovation, whether in core sciences,
environmentalism, new technology, biomedicine and health, the humanities, or the arts, is a
hallmark of Fundación BBVA. Supporting high-impact initiatives in the arts is one of the Fundación
BBVA’s strategic priorities, which it pursues by teaming up with prestigious partners and investing in
long-term programs. This is the context for our collaboration as a Strategic Trustee of the
Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, dating back to when it first opened, over eighteen years ago now.
Since that time, our partnership has made it possible to organize major exhibitions, offering
audiences a chance to see works never shown in Spain before and experience truly original
approaches to exhibition concept and design.
On this occasion, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao offered us the chance to lend our support and
play an instrumental role in organizing the largest survey to date of the Cells, a series by renowned
Franco-American artist Louise Bourgeois. For Fundación BBVA, this sponsorship represents a unique
opportunity to contribute to a better understanding of a vital aspect of this artist’s work, which
reflects many of the preoccupations that permeated her entire oeuvre.
Bourgeois herself stated that her art is existentialist, allowing her to make sense of everything. Like
an exercise in psychoanalysis, it enabled her to plumb the depths of her unconscious and sublimate
certain aspects of the past, especially those related to her childhood and family relationships. The
Cells have a dual symbolism and can be interpreted as lairs or as spaces of protection or reclusion.
Several characteristic aspects of contemporary art—the objectual, the formal, the spatial, the
psychological, experience, and subjectivity—converge in these works.
The majority of the Cells are recreations of the past made out of recycled furniture and architectural
elements, such as doors, windows, wire mesh, industrial containers, and even an elevator car. Many
of the objects inside them come from the artist’s own biographical context: perfume bottles,
tapestries, lamps, mirrors and glass balls, and also sculptures, which often represent parts of the
human body (hands, heads, torsos). These enclosures, as well as the works included in this exhibition
that can be considered precursors to the Cells, are proof of the infallible equation that Bourgeois
applied when conceiving her pieces: if grief subsides, tension is reduced, compulsion disappears, and
pain is eliminated, then the sculpture works.
LOUISE BOURGEOIS LADY IN WAITING 2003 Tapestry, thread, stainless steel, steel, wood and glass 208.3 x 110.5 x 147.3 cm Collection The Easton Foundation Photo: Christopher Burke © The Easton Foundation / VEGAP, Madrid
With the desire and determination to contribute to the dissemination of art and culture that
characterizes us, once again Fundación BBVA has, by supporting this exceptional exhibition, given the
many thousands who visit the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao a chance to admire and enjoy the most
influential art of our time.
I would like to congratulate Juan Ignacio Vidarte, Director General of the Guggenheim Museum
Bilbao, and the entire team of people who made this exhibition possible, especially curators Julienne
Lorz and Petra Joos. I have no doubt that we will all be enriched by this unique opportunity to
discover Louise Bourgeois’s intensely personal universe through her Cells. Enjoy!Francisco González
Chairman of Fundación BBVA
Presidente de la Fundación BBVA
CELL (THE LAST CLIMB)
Steel, glass, rubber, thread and wood
384.8 x 400.1 x 299.7 cm
Collection National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
Photo: Christopher Burke
© The Easton Foundation / VEGAP, Madrid