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Louise Bourgeois' World-Famous Spider Sculpture 'Maman' Has Arrived in Australia for the First Time

The iconic nine-metre-high piece is on display on the Art Gallery of NSW forecourt as part of Australia's largest-ever Louise Bourgeois exhibition.
By Sarah Ward and Ben Hansen
November 24, 2023
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By Sarah Ward and Ben Hansen
November 24, 2023
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When someone spots a giant spider, they take notice, even when it's simply a tall metal piece of art. Seeing one of Louise Bourgeois' towering arachnids is indeed a stunning experience; however, so is watching people clock her lofty works. Her Maman sculptures demand attention. They're the type of public art that audiences just want to sit around, soak in and commune with. They're photo favourites, too, of course — and one has just arrived in Australia.

This is the first time that Maman has displayed Down Under, with the world-famous piece arriving in Sydney as part of Sydney International Art Series. Bourgeois is one of three hero talents scoring a blockbuster exhibition during event, alongside Wassily Kandinsky and Tacita Dean.

Installation view of the Louise Bourgeois 'Has the Day Invaded the Night or Has the Night Invaded the Day?' exhibition at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Felicity Jenkins

The nine-metre-high, ten-metre-wide sculpture that Bourgeois is best known for is currently on display on the forecourt of the Art Gallery of NSW, towering over the historic South Building. The sculpture hails back to 1999, and boasts its name because it's a tribute to Bourgeois' mother. The artist described her mum as "deliberate, clever, patient, soothing... and [as] useful as a spider".

If you're keen to see Maman on home soil, Louise Bourgeois: Has the Day Invaded the Night, or Has the Night Invaded the Day? is running at the gallery from Saturday, November 25, 2023–Sunday, April 28, 2024, boasting 120 different works — the most comprehensive exhibition of Bourgeois's work ever to grace a gallery in the Asia Pacific.

Installation of Louise Bourgeois 'Maman' at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Felicity Jenkins

"Bold artists inspire art museums towards new approaches," said Art Gallery of New South Wales director Michael Brand. "I am proud that Bourgeois' art has inspired an exhibition that is itself exploratory and fully exploits the dramatic potential of our expanded art museum to reveal the ceaseless exploration of life's extremes that characterised her work."

"This ambitious exhibition is like none other presented at the Art Gallery, and we are very proud to bring this unique experience to Sydney this summer."

The Bourgeois exhibition is on display 13 years after the Paris-born artist passed away in New York in 2010, and after she stamped her imprint upon the art of the 20th century. Visitors will see her Arch of Hysteria work down in the gallery's underground Tank, textile works of the 1990s and 2000s, and plenty in-between.

Installation view of the Louise Bourgeois 'Has the Day Invaded the Night or Has the Night Invaded the Day?' exhibition at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Felicity Jenkins

Other highlights include The Destruction of the Father, which is among the pieces that've never been displayed in Australia before; Clouds and Caverns, which is rarely seen in general; and the mirrored piece Has the Day Invaded the Night, or Has the Night Invaded the Day?, which shares the exhibition's moniker.

Alongside the display of art, there will be a free film series curated by the AGNSW's Ruby Arrowsmith-Todd. A heap of Louise Bourgeois' favourite flicks will be screened at the gallery's cinema, including 1958's Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, 1971's Harold and Maude, David Lynch's Eraserhead, John Waters' Pink Flamingos and The Wizard of Oz.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, courtesy of Roadshow PPL

Installation view of the Louise Bourgeois 'Has the Day Invaded the Night or Has the Night Invaded the Day?' exhibition at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Felicity Jenkins

Installation view of the Louise Bourgeois 'Has the Day Invaded the Night or Has the Night Invaded the Day?' exhibition at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Felicity Jenkins

Installation view of the Louise Bourgeois 'Has the Day Invaded the Night or Has the Night Invaded the Day?' exhibition at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Felicity Jenkins

Louise Bourgeois: Has the Day Invaded the Night, or Has the Night Invaded the Day? runs from Saturday, November 25, 2023–Sunday, April 28, 2024 at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery Road, The Domain, Sydney. Head to the gallery's website for more information and to purchase tickets.

Top image: installation of Louise Bourgeois 'Maman' at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Felicity Jenkins.

Published on November 24, 2023 by Sarah Ward
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