Thursday, April 9, 2009

$6 Million Crouching Spider Moved to Houston

The giant spider that dominated the Bay's sidewalk at the Embarcadero has gone.

Removed from its waterside spot south of the Ferry Building last week, it has been transported to Houston, Texas, where, according to a report in the Examiner, it has been bought for $6 million by a private collector.

'Crouching Spider' is one of a series of immense spider sculptures created by Louise Bourgeois who is considered to be one of the greatest living artists of today. Made of bronze and stainless steel, it is about nine-feet tall, 27 feet across and weighs two-and-a-half tons.

Louise Bourgeois' spiders, the largest of which is 'Maman' at 30 ft tall, are in honour of her mother who was a weaver and spinner. Born in Paris and living in New York, the artist celebrates her 98th birthday on Christmas Day.

She loaned her spider to San Francisco two years ago through the San Francisco Arts Commission. It was installed with a ceremonial welcome that included members of the city's art world and mayor Gavin Newsom.

The sculpture 'set a new precedent for public art in San Francisco,' said Luis R Cancel, Director of Cultural Affairs. 'It has been truly wonderful to have such a magnificent sculpture by a world-class artist placed at the entrance of the city where it was viewed and enjoyed by thousands of people.'

'We thank Mayor Newsom for his enthusiasm and support for the public art program.'

Luis Cancel was quoted in a press release on an art blog, Les Cahiers - notebooks - d'Alain Truong -

Alain Truong also reported: 'The sculpture, which was originally cast in 2003 from the artist’s famous Spider series, was made specifically for display in San Francisco. Initially lent for eight months by the artist, courtesy of Gallery Paule Anglim, San Francisco and Cheim & Read, New York, the sculpture’s stay was extended due to popular support.'

The spiders are probably Louise Bourgeois' most well-known pieces of art. When the Tate museum in London purchased the giant Maman 1999 sculpture, they wrote in their press release:

'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. “'

Alain Truong also adds, 'The immense scale of the spider sculptures corresponds to the monumental importance of the artist's mother to her daughter.'

Six bronze casts of Maman have been made and are on display at renowned museums around the world.

A fascinating interview with Louise Bourgeois was posted on YouTube in May 2008. In it, the artist speaks of her work in a trailer for a documentary titled The Spider, The Mistress and The Tangerine.

'The purpose of the pieces is to express emotions. My emotions are inappropriate to my size. My emotions are my demons,' she says.

'It is not the emotions themselves. It is the intensity of the emotions are much too much for me to handle. And that is why I transfer the energy into sculpture.'

'This applies to everything I do. It has nothing to do with the craft. It has nothing to do with how to manage materials. Materials are not the subject of the artist.

'The subject of the artist is emotions and ideas. Both.'

British contemporary artist, Stella Vine, interviewed in the Observer Newspaper and quoted in Wikipedia - - says of Louise Bourgeoise that she is one of the 'greatest ever artists' and that 'few female artists have been recognised as truly important.'

There is a 'juxtaposition of sinister, controlling elements and full-on macho materials with a warm, nurturing and cocoon-like feminine side,' she says.

Bourgeois, she concluded, is 'incredible: she's known all these great men and outlived them all.'

Crouching Spider was displayed by permission of the San Francisco Port Commission and was insured by the Arts Commission for $6 million.

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