Art world grande dame
The French-american artist Louise Bourgeois may have been 96 years old when she joined Rei Kawakubo and Zaha Hadid as our joint Guest Editor in October 2008, but she took on the role with the energy of someone half her age. Bourgeois worked with three long-time friends and collaborators – fashion designer turned artist Helmut Lang, architect Peter Zumthor and artist Roni Horn – to curate a unique edit of their work.
Paris-born Bourgeois moved to New York in 1938 and achieved international recognition for the disturbing sculptures and installations that she began producing in the 1960s. She was exploring familiar territory when she told us, ‘I say things that I shouldn’t say and I do things that I shouldn’t do. There is violence. I break things and then there is guilt and regret. The duality is in the work.’
Her final major work, a collaboration with Zumthor, was the Steilneset Memorial at Vardø in Norway. Previewed in our 2008 issue, it opened in 2011, a year after she died, and the intense psychodrama of its interior – dedicated to the many women burnt as witches hereabouts in the early 17th century – doubles as a fitting memorial to Bourgeois herself.
Peter Zumthor on the coast in Vardø, Norway. ‘Zumthor and l have used earth, water, fire and air to create views of silence,’ said Bourgeois of their Steilneset Memorial
Helmut Lang on the beach near his house in The Hamptons. ‘Helmut went to the ocean to gather his thoughts,’ explained Bourgeois. ‘Inspiration comes from retreat’
03 Roni Horn with her Vatnasafn/library of Water
installation in Iceland. ‘Horn chooses solitude. She chooses the experience of nature,’ said Bourgeois 01 02 03 Bourgeois, photographed (left) by Scott Douglas in 2008, selected one of her own works for her cover, Untitled, 2007, in fabric and fabric collage
Bottom, the artist’s pages included a curation of the work of three collaborators
Interior shots of Louise Bourgeois’ home in Chelsea, New York. It is now part of The Easton Foundation, which promotes scholarship and awareness of Bourgeois’ life and art
Photographed in 2016 by Jean-françois Jaussaud © The Easton Foundation/ VAGA, NY