February 19, 2015 - Haus der Kunst - Louise Bourgeois
February 19, 2015

Louise Bourgeois

Louise Bourgeois, Spider, 1997. Collection The Easton Foundation. Photo: Frédéric Delpech. © The Easton Foundation / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2015.

Louise Bourgeois
Structures of Existence: The Cells

27 February–2 August 2015

Haus der Kunst
Prinzregentenstr. 1
80538 Munich


“Space does not exist; it is just a metaphor for the structure of our existence.” 
–Louise Bourgeois

Over her long career as an artist, Louise Bourgeois (1911–2010) developed concepts and formal inventions that later became key positions in contemporary art; these included the use of environmental installation and theatrical formats, and the engagement with psychoanalytic and feminist themes. Both her distinctive sculptural forms and her outstanding drawings and graphic works are second to none. Among the most innovative and sophisticated sculptural works in her extensive Œuvre are the “Cells,” a series of architectural spaces that deal with a range of emotions. Created over a span of two decades, the “Cell” series presents individual microcosms: each “Cell” is an enclosure that separates the internal world from the external world. In these unique spaces, the artist composes found objects, clothes, fabric, furniture and distinctive sculptures into emotionally charged, theatrical sets.

The entire “Cell” series revolves around the desire to simultaneously remember and forget. “You have to tell your story and you have to forget your story. You forget and forgive. It liberates you,” Louise Bourgeois once claimed. She has described her sculptures from the mid-1940s to the mid-1950s as an attempt to summon together all the people she missed. Bourgeois created her first environmental installation with these Personages, carefully arranging them to stand upright, directly from the floor, and thereby allowing the viewer to walk amongst them. In this sense, thePersonages can be regarded as a kind of family constellation, her recreation of the past a form of exorcism. The “Cells” also contain references to individuals and past experiences. Thus, the needles, thread and spindles incorporated in the “Cells” allude to the artist’s childhood and her parents’ work—her mother restored valuable tapestries. The “Cells” also tell of abandonment, betrayal and loss. The Bourgeois family unit was subject to great strain: Louise’s father betrayed her mother by having an affair with the family au pair, who lived in the family home for almost a decade. Further, in a reversal of roles, Louise nursed her mother, who had influenza. Louise soon became entangled in a web of conflicting emotions: admiration and solidarity, anger and powerlessness.

The artist established the connection between her work and the processing of her personal traumas. In 1982, she created an illustrated autobiographical text for Artforum about her traumatic childhood experiences. In the same period, the Museum of Modern Art in New York honored the artist, who was already 70 years old, with a retrospective. It was the first time the museum had dedicated a retrospective exhibition to a woman.

As a new sculptural category, Louise Bourgeois’s “Cells” “occupy a place somewhere between museum panoramic, theatrical staging, environment, installation, and sculpture, which, in this form and quantity, is without precedent in the history of art” (Julienne Lorz). 

Louise Bourgeois created a total of 62 “Cells” over the course of her career, of which 30 are presented in the exhibition, planned and organized by Haus der Kunst in collaboration with international partner institutions. It is the largest overview presentation of the “Cells” to date. Haus der Kunst is pleased to present such an extraordinary body of work.

With special thanks to the Louise Bourgeois Trust and The Easton Foundation. With major funding by Art Mentor Foundation Lucerne and with generous support by Roland Berger Strategy Consultants. Further support provided by Hauser & Wirth, Cheim & Read and Kukje Gallery.

Cultural partner m94,5

Current exhibitions:
David Adjaye: Form, Heft, Material
Till 31 May

Mark Leckey: As if
Till 31 May

Broken. Slapstick, Comedy and Black Humor The Goetz Collection at Haus der Kunst
Till 26 April 

Der Öffentlichkeit – Von Den Freunden Haus Der Kunst:
Anri Sala: The Present Moment
Till 20 September 


Haus der Kunst
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