A Giant Spider Weaves Its Way Around the World
Louise Bourgeois' monumental public sculpture is a modern art icon. Best encountered up close, this itsy bitsy spider just crawled into Zurich.
Arachnophobes of the world beware, this is one blood-curdling sight: a monumental, 10-meter-high (33 feet) spider. It has taken up residence in downtown Zurich, Switzerland, where it dominates a lakeshore spot on Bürkliplatz.
The arachnid is a sculpture named ‘"Maman‘‘ (Mommy) by Franco-American artist Louise Bourgeois (1911–2010) and it's one of the most popular pieces of contemporary art out there. Both in terms of size, and its effect on people, the bronze and stainless steel spider and its sac of marble eggs is no average piece of art.
On Wednesday night, leg-by-leg, the 11-ton monster was assembled under the watchful eye of a US specialist. It took seven people and two cranes to get the job done. The piece belongs to a private art collection. Before making it to Zurich, the spider spent some time in Bern, where it towered over the Bundesplatz, home of Switzerland's federal parliament. On August 2, it will move on to Geneva.
The giant spider will then continue its Swiss tour in Basel, as the core piece of a retrospective devoted to Louise Bourgeois at the prestigious, Renzo Piano-designed Beyeler Foundation in the suburb of Riehen. The spider will be on display in the museum gardens for an exhibition that opens on September 3 and honors the 100 year anniversary of the artist's birth.
Fueling revenge fantasies
Bourgeois, who died in May 2010 at the age of 98, helped plan the Riehen exhibit. That she was still very active until her last days was in keeping with the artist's life story—fame came late to Bourgeois, who was 70 before New York's MoMA gave her a first retrospective in 1982.
The amazing success she enjoyed after this breakthrough is unsurprising given the uniqueness and impact of her sculptures. They are even more stirring if one considers that this was the Paris-born artist's way of working through memories of her dreadful childhood dominated by a tyrannical and sadistic father. To deal with it, Bourgeois retreated into a dream world, harboring fantasies of revenge reflected in her art.
Fascination and revulsion
Bourgeois' art reached its peak in 1999 when she created the giant spider. She named it Mommy as a tribute to her own mother, a restorer of antique tapestries who spent her days weaving. While there is a lot of humor in Bourgeois' unforgettable embodiment of a web-weaving, brooding uber-mama, the sense of childhood trauma and fundamental fear are palpable too—the spider is both protective and all devouring.
Bourgeois' art was not only a powerful influence on generations of female artists, her spider has also made a huge impact around the world, casting its giant shadow over the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia, and London's Tate Modern. For the next few weeks, Zurich will get to experience that bittersweet ambivalence between fascination and revulsion that grips the belly the way only really good art can.
Read the original article in German
Photo - Dalbera
NOTE: Any earlier version misidentified the source of this article.