Louise Bourgeois Spider Sculpture Could Fetch $40 Million At Auction

The 10-foot metal spider may break records as the most expensive work ever sold by a female artist at an auction.  

French-American artist Louise Bourgeois was known for her towering sculptures or installations, which are largely inspired by her personal experiences. Now, one of her seminal pieces entitled Spider (1996) is expected to sell for $40 million at Sotheby’s marquee evening sale of contemporary art on May 18. 

A Louise Bourgeois’ spider sculpture at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art/Photo via Instagram @kempermuseum

At 10 feet tall and 18 feet wide, the sculpture comes from the collection of the Brazilian non-profit Fundação Itaú, and was acquired by collector Olavo Setubal. It was then loaned to the São Paulo Museum of Modern Art for 20 years and exhibited in a variety of Brazilian institutions.  

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French-American artist Louise Bourgeois/Photo via Instagram @anonymousworksinc

Should the piece fetch a price of $40 million or higher, it could break records as the most expensive sculpture by a woman to ever be sold at auction. The current holder of the record being Georgia O’Keeffe’s Jimson Weed (1936) painting, which was sold to heiress Alice Walton for $44.4 million in 2014. 

However, even if the sculpture is bought at a price slightly lower than the estimate, it’ll still break records for being Bourgeois’ most valuable work. 

Motherhood Motif

Spider (1996) is just one among a series of spider sculptures created by the late artist. After sketching charcoal drawings of arachnids in 1947, Bourgeois transformed them into large-scale bronze models in the late 1990s.

To her, the spider was both a threat and protector—an apt symbol of motherhood that became her “most successful subject,” according to a write-up from the UK’s Tate

“The spider—why the spider? Because my best friend was my mother and she was deliberate, clever, patient, soothing, reasonable, dainty, subtle, indispensable, neat, and as useful as a spider,” shared the artist. 

A World-Renowned Symbol

Bourgeois’ other spider sculptures have also been on display in acclaimed cultural institutions worldwide, namely the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, Dia Art Foundation in New York, and Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. 

Louise Bourgeois’ spider sculptures displayed at The Fife Arms hotel in the UK/Photo via Instagram @thefifearms

“The Spider has become a global icon. […] It is not only a paragon of modern sculpture, but has taken on a larger symbolic presence within contemporary culture internationally,” shared Sotheby’s head of contemporary art in New York, David Galperin. 

Banner Photo via Instagram @kempermuseum.

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