‘Radical’ late fabric works by Louise Bourgeois to go on show at London’s Hayward Gallery

The first major exhibition to focus on the textile pieces that the late Paris-born artist made in the final phase of her career will open in February 2022

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Louise Bourgeois's Spider (1997) © The Easton Foundation/VAGA at ARS, NY and DACS, London 2021. Photo: Maximilian Geuter

Louise Bourgeois's Spider (1997) © The Easton Foundation/VAGA at ARS, NY and DACS, London 2021. Photo: Maximilian Geuter

Louise Bourgeois’ works made with fabrics and textiles will go on show next year in an exhibition at the Hayward Gallery in London. The exhibition, Louise Bourgeois: the Woven Child (9 February-15 May 2022), is billed as the first major exhibition to focus exclusively on the works that the late Paris-born artist made in the medium during the final phase of her career. 

Bourgeois grew up in a family that ran a tapestry restoration workshop located in a Parisian suburb. “But she only started making work in different fabrics and textiles in her early 80s,” says Ralph Rugoff, the Hayward Gallery director and exhibition curator. 

“Bourgeois revisits the themes around gender and sexuality that you find in her earlier art but her fabric sculptures evince a more intimate emotional register. This may be to do with the vulnerability of the materials and their uses for covering our bodies; these works incorporate clothes and bedsheets that belonged to her and her mother, for instance.”

Louise Bourgeois's The Good Mother (detail, 2003) © The Easton Foundation/VAGA at ARS, NY and DACS, London 2021. Photo: Christopher Burke

Some of the works are put together with deliberately crude stitching, which is apparent in the material. “It’s unsettling and radical,” says Rugoff. “Some of the works make [artist] Mike Kelley’s pieces look like something from Disneyland! The works are tough but convey a fragility at the same time.” The installations featured include Lady in Waiting (2003)—a complex assemblage comprising a frightening doll-like figure seated on an antique chair encased in a display case—and the mammoth Spider (1997) piece which incorporates tapestry panels.

The show includes four large-scale vitrine pieces made in the last five years of her life. “Different kinds of sculptures are juxtaposed within the vitrines and make reference to earlier types of work as if looking back at her long and remarkable career ” Rugoff says.

More than 20 lenders will give works for the show, including the Easton Foundation, which administers Bourgeois’ estate. Its curator, Philip Larratt-Smith, says in a statement: “Taken as a whole, the fabric work is both a summing up and a recalibration of the forms, processes, motifs, and ideas that obsessed Bourgeois over a lifetime.” 

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