Wednesday, November 14, 2007


Well, maybe girlcrush is a little flippant when discussing the idolisation of a ninety five year old woman. She is officially my heroine. But before I finally dragged my arse the short distance over to Tate Modern to see the LB exhibition I knew her mostly as an art world personage - from pictures such as the one above taken by Robert Mapplethorpe in the eighties (and used in a Helmut Lang advertisement in the nineties.)

I thought I would be telling you how I got to the Tate, was strangely underwhelmed by "The Crack" and found myself randomly standing next to Ewan McGregor for the second time in the last ten years. Poor besotted chap; he's obviously been trying to track me down all this time since our first brief encounter and just couldn't find the words once I was within reach. I understand, really I do.

Blah blah blah, everything else fell away as soon as I entered the Louise Bourgeois exhibit. Ten rooms of work, one room in particular that contained the "cells" (rooms constructed out of reclaimed doors, a wooden water tower or metal cages filled with various objects) propelled me back round it three times. I'm not going to attempt to play serious art critic so I'll just leave it at saying it was the best exhibition I can remember ever seeing. Of her sculptures, even those that deal with the most distressing themes and are made of distressed materials are resolutely beautiful.

As I walked out of the exit I felt I wanted to go to Louise Bourgeois's house and have a cup of tea with her, hang out and get a glimpse of her daily life. At just that point I noticed the large video screen just outside the exit where they were showing the 1991 (I think) Arena documentary on her. The part I walked in on was where she's in her kitchen, opens a cupboard that contains ten neatly lined up jars of marmalade, takes one down, then tells the interviewer that all spoons must be cauterised over a flame before use to remove the germs, then proceeds to iron the pages of the NY Times flat.

I love her. She certainly has a special kind of magnetism that a huge crowd of people stood or sat transfixed watching her in the full length documentary being by turns destructive, flirty, argumentative, cute, petulant, wise, funny, serious, vulnerable, tough, but always with this particular stubborn twinkle in her eyes.

{img © The Estate of Robert Mapplethorpe}


Anonymous said...

Oh yes she is great! I was so happy to encounter one of her pieces "Maman" at the musée des beaux arts du canada in ottawa. (i actually went for another exhibition). very powerful piece.

Bombay Beauty said...

Hello Lola - yes, I saw that exhibition and liked it very much too. As a just back from Venice special, here's a Bourgeois I saw at the Biennale.

I have to admit a lot of her work makes me uncomfortable, not in the don't-like sense but more in the queasy sense. But of course all art isn't meant to be warm and cuddly, unlike the artist who certainly looks like that (but judging from the video has quite a sharp tongue!)



Anonymous said...

I have never seen a show (of hers, doh-- it's early here) and would love to and wonder if that docu is avail on netflix? Thanks for the report-- almmost as good as being there.

*hitches resin penis sculpture under my arm and walks off into the rain*


Lola is Beauty said...

delphine: the maman sculpture is outside Tate Modern with the view of St Paul's cathedral behind it is pretty amazing...

bp: I don't know if it is - it's not on Youtube or any mention of it online - but there is another trilogy of docs about her called "Chere Louise" by Brigitte Cornand. Also there was a profile of her on the BBC "Imagine" programme which I missed last week...also there's a feature length portrait of her by a US director released on 11 January 08. You'll find her somewhere! I am in fact carrying a resin penis sculpture under my arm today. I find it useful when haggling at the market...

BB: that is interesting, her work makes me feel very comfortable compared to most - could be that a lot of big retrospectives at Tate are on male artists and she has such a female p.o.v?

Anonymous said...

Between her, Louise Nevelson and Dorothea Tanning... talk about a standard for aspiration. Gorgeous post! XX, LC

gracia said...

Oh, yes. A twinkle-eyed heroine of mine, too.
see you, g