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Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010)
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Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010)\nMemling Dawn \nincised with the artist’s initials, numbered, dated and stamped ‘MAF 92 L.B. 4/6’ (on one side)\nbronze and stainless steel base\n62 ½ x 25 5/8 x 26 ½in. (158.8 x 65.2 x 67.5cm.)\nConceived in 1951 and cast in 1992. This work is number four from an edition of six plus one artist's proof.
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notes

‘Memling Dawn (1951) demonstrates the basic dynamics of the spiral – a key image in her work – by means of a rudimentary construction in which each of the squared-off components pivots on a central axis so that, under different conditions, the piece may resemble a rectilinear pillar, a coiling Solomonic column… In retrospect, Memling Dawn has established itself as the missing link between Brancusi’s Endless Columns of 1918 and Carl Andre’s horizontal firebrick “stack” Lever of 1966’ (R. Storr, ‘Arachne on 20th Street’, Louise Bourgeois: Homesickness, exh. cat., Yokohama Museum of Art, Yokohama, 1997, p. 138).

‘Their beauty is weatherbeaten freight; it cannot be pinned down, it can only be observed. These works embody the paradox of the still object that seems possessed of agitated movement from the fear of falling. Though they are not backward looking, they are figures of constant return, seeming always on the lookout for some state of enlightened peace. This state, which cannot be located, is their movable, unfixable centre’ (C. Meyer-Thoss, Louise Bourgeois: Designing For Free Fall, Zurich 1992, p. 59).

A stoic bronze column over a metre and a half tall, Memling Dawn is at once a towering sky scrapper and a woman standing. A majestic bronze totem of commanding presence, Memling Dawn is an important example from Louise Bourgeois’ Personages series, a pivotal group of sculpture that the artist produced early in her career. Representative of a definitive moment in her artistic practice, the years 1950-1951 saw Bourgeois’ practice evolve in a new direction. Moving away from the earlier carved, monolithic forms, the artist began introducing modular components, which represented a level of greater structural complexity ,into Personages. Stacked like vertebrae, the cadenced repetition of the modular blocks introduce a sense of dynamism to the work. Originally executed in wood in 1951, Bourgeois cast this bronze version in 1992 as the culmination of a process which had always been her ultimate goal but which, in the 1950s, her financial circumstances did not allow her to complete. Executed in bronze its striking column remains one of the most widely seen figures in her entire oeuvre, with wood and bronze versions of Memling Dawn exhibited in virtually every major exhibition of the artist’s work, including Museum of Modern Art, New York, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, Tate Modern, London, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C., Fondation Beyeler, Riehen / Basel. The bronze edition was exhibited at Il Biennale Internazionale de Scultera Contemporanea di Matera, ‘Scultura in America’ in 1990, Museum Wiesbaden, Wiesbaden, Museo Rufno Tamayo, Mexico City, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, Musée d’Art Contemporain de Montreal, and Yokohama Museum, Tokyo, with the present version shown at MARCO Monterrey, Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporaneo, Seville in 1995 – 1996.

An abstract study of the relations between parts and wholes, this elegant work is an intriguing combination of simplicity and complexity. This bold upright form recalls the presence of a human figure reduced to its most refined form. The Personages have been recognized as pre-empting the unitary, geometric forms produced by Minimalist artists during the 1960s. Setting Bourgeois apart from her Minimalist contemporaries, whose cool anonymity was largely a philosophical and conceptual reaction against Abstract Expressionism, Bourgeois’ abstracted forms were informed and inspired by her own experiences. This quality is reflected in the formal qualities of her structures, which in contrast to Brancusi’s rigidly symmetrical towers, embrace tactility and irregularity, giving them a fragile, vulnerable quality. Executed at a time when the supremacy of the male dominated world of Abstract Expressionism was reaching its peak, the quiet introspection of Louise Bourgeois’ work was often overlooked but with the intervening years, objects such as Memling Dawn have come to be recognized as some of the most important works of their generation. Indeed, Robert Storr would later identify the present work as a keystone work in the history of Modern Art stating: ‘Memling Dawn’ (1951) demonstrates the basic dynamics of the spiral – a key image in her work – by means of a rudimentary construction in which each of the squared-off components pivots on a central axis so that, under different conditions, the piece may resemble a rectilinear pillar, a coiling Solomonic column… In retrospect, Memling Dawn has established itself as the missing link between Brancusi’s Endless Columns of 1918 and Carl Andre’s horizontal firebrick “stack” Lever of 1966’ (R. Storr, ‘Arachne on 20th Street’, Louise Bourgeois: Homesickness, exh. cat., Yokohama Museum of Art, Yokohama, 1997, p. 138).

Crafted with Bourgeois’ characteristic dexterity, Memling Dawn is distinguished by its refined vertical form and exquisite surface detail, and stands alongside the earliest of her works to have achieved critical success, acting as the foundation upon which much of her subsequent career would be based. Bold and enigmatic, these Personages were designed not only to act as striking objects in their own right, but were also intended to interact with their surroundings and with those who come into close proximity with them. Each stacked element is unique in both its individual form and how this form influences the overall aesthetic. Taller, thinner elements make up the lower portion of the work, which in turn supports a series of shorter, heavier components that are placed at the top of it. This arrangement recalls the human figure – retaining the rigidity of Alberto Giacometti’s standing figures whilst introducing a delightful sense of delicacy and vulnerability to the composition. As in both its execution and form, Memling Dawn retains a complexity and warmth that has distinct parallels with the human soul. Despite being cast in bronze, each element retains the exquisite detail of its wooden origins, bearing the individual ridges and rings of its antecedent; indeed, the individual arrangements of loops and whorls in the wood grain mirror the fingerprints on the surface of the human hand.

Although resolutely non-figurative, Bourgeois admitted that these forms were reminiscent of humans – or at least the psychological entities contained within them. She explained that the forms ‘were conceived of and functioned as figures, each given a personality by its shape and articulation, and responding to one another. They were life-size is a real space…’ (L. Bourgeois, quoted by J. Helfenstein, ‘Personages: Animism versus Modernist Sculpture,’ Louise Bourgeois, exh. cat., Tate Gallery, London 2007, p. 207). Executed on a human scale, the Personages came to embody surrogates for the artist’s family and friends, not in their physical presence, but in the subtle emotional cues in which she presents them. Indeed, in an installation of her early work in 1949, Bourgeois sets up her appropriately named Personages in relation to the others, so ‘they can look around the room, but usually look at each other’ (L. Bourgeois, quoted in R. Pincus-Witten, Louise Bourgeois: Personages, exh. Cat., Kukje Gallery, Seoul, 2012, p. 19). As evidenced by this early anthropomorphizing of her totemic creations, Bourgeois continued to relate her sculptures in this way both to one another and her audience throughout her career.

Throughout her long and distinguished artistic career, Bourgeois used memories of her family and her past in order to set a scene for her work. In her vast body of work, Bourgeois oscillates between the evidently figurative and the more abstract; between the real and the uncanny. Inherently linked through their autobiographical, highly personal exploration, Bourgeois’ concern with the body and memory resonates throughout her artistic practice. As the artist states, ‘it is not an image I am seeking. It’s not an idea. It is an emotion you want to recreate, an emotion of wanting, of giving, and of destroying’ (L. Bourgeois, quoted in C. Meyer-Thoss, ‘Self-Expression Is Sacred and Fatal: Statements’, Louise Bourgeois: Designing for Free Fall, exh. cat., Zurich 1992, p. 194).

title

Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010)

signed

Incised with the artist’s initials, numbered, dated and stamped ‘MAF 92 L.B. 4/6’ (on one side)

creator

Louise Bourgeois

keywords

Louise Bourgeois , 1990s, Sculptures, Statues & Figures, United States of America, Post War

exhibited

New York, 48 West 10th Street, Sculpture in a Garden: Louise Bourgeois, Jose De Rivera, Sidney Gordin, Ibram Lassaw, Louise Nevelson, Helena Simkhovitch, Nemecio Antunez, 1954 (wood version exhibited).

Ithaca, Andrew D. White Art Museum, Cornell University, Sculpture by Louise Bourgeois: 13th Festival of Contemporary Arts, 1959 (wood version exhibited).

New York, Xavier Fourcade Gallery, Louise Bourgeois, Sculpture 1941-1953 Plus One New Piece, 1979 (wood version exhibited).

New York, Museum of Modern Art, Louise Bourgeois: Retrospective, 1982-1984, p. 121, no. 67 (wood version exhibited and illustrated, p. 63, and installation view illustrated, p. 60). This exhibition later travelled to Houston, Contemporary Arts Museum; Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art and Akron, Akron Art Museum.

Philadelphia, Philadelphia Art Alliance, Forms in Wood: American Sculpture of the 1950s, 1985 (wood version exhibited).

Los Angeles, Museum of Contemporary Art, Individuals: A Selected History of Contemporary Art, 1945-1986, 1986-1988 (wood version exhibited and installation view illustrated, unpaged).

New York, Sperone Westwater Gallery, Louise Bourgeois: Works from the Fifties, 1989 (wood version exhibited).

Frankfurt, Frankfurter Kunstverein, Louise Bourgeois: A Retrospective Exhibition, 1989-1991, no. 23, p. 185 (wood version exhibited and illustrated, p. 77). This exhibition later travelled to Munich, Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus; London, Riverside Studios; Lyon, Musée d’art Contemporain; Barcelona, Fundació Antoni Tàpies; Bern, Kunstmuseum Bern and Otterlo, Kröller-Müller Museum.

Santa Monica, Linda Cathcart Gallery, Louise Bourgeois: Bronze Sculpture and Drawings, 1990 (another from the edition exhibited).

Matera, II Biennale Internazionale di Scultura Contemporanea di Matera, Scultura in America, 1990, p. 104 (another from the edition exhibited and illustrated, p. 105).

Wiesbaden, Museum Wiesbaden, Positions of Art in the Twentieth Century: 50 Women Artists, 1990 (another from the edition exhibited).

Monterrey, Galerie Ramis Barquet, Louise Bourgeois, 1993 (another from the edition exhibited and illustrated, p. 19).

St. Louis, Saint Louis Art Museum, Louise Bourgeois: The Personnages, 1994, no. 30 (another from the edition exhibited and illustrated in colour, p. 65).

Hannover, Kestner-Gesellschaft, Louise Bourgeois: Sculpturen und Installationen, 1994, p. 196, no. 18 (wood version exhibited and illustrated in colour, p. 49).

Monterrey, Museo de Art Contemporaneo de Monterrey (MARCO), Louise Bourgeois, 1995-1996, no. 26 (the present work exhibited and illustrated, p. 55). This exhibition later travelled to Seville, Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporaneo and Mexico City, Museo Rufno Tamayo.

Melbourne, National Gallery of Victoria, Louise Bourgeois, 1995-1996, no. 12 (another from the edition exhibited). This exhibition later travelled to Sydney, Museum of Contemporary Art.

Montreal, Musée d’Art Contemporain de Montreal, Louise Bourgeois: Locus of Memory, 1996 (another from the edition exhibited).

San Francisco, Gallery Paul Anglim, Louise Bourgeois, 1996 (another from the edition exhibited).

Paris, United States Department of State, Art in Embassies Program, Embassy Residence, 1997-1998 (another from the edition on extended loan).

Tokyo, Yokohama Museum, Louise Bourgeois: Homesickness, 1997-1998 (another from the edition exhibited and illustrated, p. 67).

Boston, Barbara Krakow Gallery, Louise Bourgeois: Geometry of Pleasure, 1998- 1999 (another from the edition exhibited).

Cologne, Galerie Karsten Greve, Louise Bourgeois, 1999.

Madrid, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Louise Bourgeois: Memory and Architecture, 1999-2000, no. 21, pp. 145 and 276 (wood version exhibited, p. 146).

Kyungki-Do, National Museum of Contemporary Art, Louise Bourgeois: The Space of Memory, 2000 (another from the edition exhibited, p. 121).

Champaign, Krannert Art Museum, University of Illinois, Louise Bourgeois: The Early Work, 2002-2003, p. 131, no. 37 (another from the edition exhibited and illustrated, p. 92). This exhibition later travelled to Madison, Madison Art Center and Aspen, Aspen Art Museum.

Bregenz, Kunsthaus Bregenz, Louise Bourgeois: Drawings and Sculpture, 2002, p. 234 (another from the edition exhibited, p. 60).

Warsaw, Zacheta Gallery of Art, Louise Bourgeois: Geometry of Desire, 2003 (another from the edition exhibited, illustrated in colour).

Beacon, New York, Dia Center for the Arts, Louise Bourgeois Installation at Inauguration of Dia: Beacon, 2003 (wood version exhibited, on extended loan).

Berlin-Brandenburg, Akademie der Künste, Louise Bourgeois: Intimate Abstraction, 2003, p. 203 (another from the edition exhibited).

London, Tate Modern, Louise Bourgeois: Retrospective, 2007-2009, pp. 178 and 312, no. 168 (wood version exhibited, p. 179). This exhibition later travelled to Centre Georges Pompidou, Musée d’art moderne; New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; Los Angeles, Museum of Contemporary Art and Washington D.C., Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden.

Basel, Fondation Beyeler, Louise Bourgeois: À L’Infni, 2011-2012 (wood version exhibited).

department

POST-WAR & CONTEMPORARY ART

dimensions

62 ½ x 25 5/8 x 26 ½in. (158.8 x 65.2 x 67.5cm.)

literature

D. Wye (ed.), Louise Bourgeois, exh. cat., Museum of Modern Art, 1982 (wooden version exhibited, illustrated, pp. 60 and 63).

J. Gorovoy, Louise Bourgeois, New York 1986 (installation view of wood version in the artist’s studio illustrated, unpaged).

A. Kirili, ‘The Passion for Sculpture: A Conversation with Louise Bourgeois’, in Arts, vol. 63, no. 7, March 1989 (installation view of wood version in the artist’s studio illustrated, unpaged).

R. Storr, ‘Intimate Geographies: The Work and Life of Louise Bourgeois’, in Art Press, no. 175, December 1992 (another from the edition illustrated in colour, p. 15).

C. Leigh, ‘Rooms, Doors, Windows: Making Entrances and Exits (when necessary). Louise Bourgeois’ Theatre of the Body’, in Balcon, no. 8-9, 1992 (another from the edition, p. 31).

C. Meyer-Thoss, Louise Bourgeois: Designing For Free Fall, Zurich 1992, p. 59 (another from the edition illustrated, p. 56).

C. Haenlein, C. Ahrens and B. Catoir (eds.), Louise Bourgeois Sculptures and Installations, Hannover 1994.

S. Pagé and B. Parent, Louise Bourgeois: Sculptures, environnements, drawings 1938-1995, exh. cat., Paris, Musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris, 1995, p. 222 (another from the edition illustrated, p. 88).

M-L. Bernadec, Louise Bourgeois, Paris 1996 (installation view of wood version illustrated, p. 48).

P. T. Asbaghi (ed.), Louise Bourgeois: Blue Days and Pink Days, exh. cat., New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, 1997, no. 113 (wood version illustrated).

R. Crone and P. Graf Schaesberg, Louise Bourgeois: The Secret of the Cells, Munich 1998, p. 162 (another from the edition illustrated, p. 60).

B. Catoir and M. J. Jacob (eds.), Louise Bourgeois, Cologne 1999 (another from the edition illustrated, p. 63).

S. W. Kang (ed.), Louise Bourgeois, exh. cat., Kyunggi-Do, The National Museum of Contemporary Art, 2000 (another from the edition illustrated, p. 121).

E. Schneider, Louise Bourgeois, exh. cat., Bregenz, Kunsthaus Bregenz, 2002 (another from the edition illustrated, p. 60).

R. Storr, P. Herkenhoff and A. Schwartzman (eds.), Louise Bourgeois, London 2003 (another from the edition illustrated in colour, p. 59).

A. Morawinska, Louise Bourgeois: Geometry of Desire, exh. cat., Warsaw, Zacheta Gallery of Art, 2003 (another from edition illustrated, p. 177).

U. Küster, Louise Bourgeois, 2011, pp. 35, 41, 42 and 44 (installation view of wood version illustrated in colour, p. 33).

R. Pincus-Witten, ‘Louise Bourgeois: The Personnages’, in Personnages, exh. cat., Korea, Kukje Gallery, 2012 (installation view of wood version illustrated, p. 78, 81 and 83).

D. Tilkin (ed.), Louise Bourgeois ‘Honni soit Qui mal y pense’, London 2012, p. 21, no. 15 (wood version illustrated, p. 22).

provenance

The Artist.

Cheim & Read, New York.

Xavier Hufkens, Brussels.

Acquired from the above by the present owner.

special_notice

Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.


*Note that the price is not recalculated to the current value, but refers to the actual final price at the time the product was sold.

*Note that the price is not recalculated to the current value, but refers to the actual final price at the time the product was sold.


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