Press Release

Tate acquires Louise Bourgeois’s giant spider, Maman

Tate has acquired Louise Bourgeois’s celebrated sculpture of a giant female spider, Maman 1999. The work is a gift of the artist and an anonymous benefactor.

Maman, which stands more than nine metres high is a unique steel and marble sculpture from which an edition of six bronzes were subsequently cast by the artist. It first made an appearance as part of Bourgeois’s inaugural commission for The Unilever Series for Tate Modern’s vast Turbine Hall in 2000. A bronze version of Maman is currently on display outside Tate Modern, as part of the major Louise Bourgeois retrospective which runs until 20 January 2008 and which has proved to be one of the most popular exhibitions of sculpture at Tate.

Maman is the largest Spider sculpture ever made by Bourgeois. This spectacular arachnid alludes to the strength of the mother with metaphors of spinning, weaving, nurture and protection.

Commenting on the acquisition, Vicente Todolí, Director Tate Modern said, “To acquire Maman, one of Louise Bourgeois’s best-known and seminal works, the largest of her Spider sculptures, is an historic moment for Tate. This work significantly enhances our holdings of the work of one of the world’s greatest living sculptors.”

Bourgeois has said, “The Spider is an ode to my mother. She was my best friend. Like a spider, my mother was a weaver.  My family was in the business of tapestry restoration, and my mother was in charge of the workshop. Like spiders, my mother was very clever. Spiders are friendly presences that eat mosquitoes. We know that mosquitoes spread diseases and are therefore unwanted. So, spiders are helpful and protective, just like my mother. “

Louise Bourgeois, now 96, is regarded as one of the most important artists working today. Born in 1911 in Paris, she moved to New York in 1938. She has always explored her ideas in an extraordinary variety of media and her work is deeply autobiographical in its references. Over the course of seven decades, her work has ranged in scale from small obsessively-worked objects to large installations such as the Cells of the 1980s and 1990s. She is, however, perhaps best-known for her Spiders. 

Bronze casts of Maman are on permanent display at The Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao, Spain, Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul, Korea, MoriArtCenter, Tokyo, Japan and the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Canada.

There are 28 works in the Tate Collection by Louise Bourgeois including Mamelles 1991, acquired as part of Building Tate Collection campaign, and Cell (Eyes and Mirrors) 1989-93.

The exhibition, Louise Bourgeois, featuring over 200 works, is supported by Tate Members with additional support from The Henry Moore Foundation.