The Walters Art Museum

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Jan. 2, 2005

Media Contact:
Amy Mannarino
410-547-9000, ext. 277


Baltimore–The Walters Art Museum and the Contemporary Museum in Baltimore will present Louise Bourgeois: Femme, an exploration of the artist Louise Bourgeois' fascination with the female form through a groundbreaking "intervention," on view Feb. 11 through May 21, 2006 at both museums. At the Walters, works from Bourgeois' personal collection and new pieces created especially for the occasion will be installed throughout the museum's galleries. At the Contemporary, a series of nine related copperplate etchings by Bourgeois and a film will be featured through April 23, 2006.

"This is the first time that Bourgeois' art has been directly integrated into the existing galleries of a museum's permanent collection," said Walters Director Gary Vikan. "We are excited to collaborate with the Contemporary Museum and to enrich the visitor experience by introducing modern-day art into our collections."

"The etchings and the documentary film at the Contemporary Museum are a wonderful accompaniment to the experience at the Walters Art Museum. Visitors to the Contemporary will gain insight into this fascinating artist, her life and the influences on her work," said the Contemporary's Curator Cira Pasqual Marquina.

Louise Bourgeois: Femme was conceived by the Contemporary Museum and is a collaboration with the Walters Art Museum. It is sponsored by: Agnes Gund and Daniel Shapiro, Stanley Mazaroff, The Wieler Family Foundation and Goya Contemporary & Goya-Girl Press. Contributing Sponsors are: Sandra D. Hess, Ziger/Snead Architects and Charles Brickbauer, Clair Zamoiski Segal and Thomas H. Segal, Sherry and Stuart Christhilf, Erin Becker and Rheda Becker, Constance R. Caplan, Jane S. Baum and The William G. Baker, Jr. Memorial Fund. Additional Support has been provided by: Mrs. Bodil Ottesen, The Cordish Family Fund, Laura L. Freedlander, Gwen Davidson, Marcia and John Ramsay, John Waters, Jr., Gloria and Joseph Askin, Ann and Sandy Jacobson, Lindsay and Bruce Fleming, Betsy and David Nelson, and Carol and Alan Edelman.

About the Installation

The brainchild of Thom Collins, former director of the Contemporary Museum and now director of the Neuberger Museum in New York, Louise Bourgeois: Femme is a collaborative partnership between the Walters and Contemporary museums. It juxtaposes approximately 40 works created over the course of the artist's long career with like-themed cultural artifacts in the Walters' ancient through 19th-century collections. Since her breakthrough 1983 retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Bourgeois' celebrity has steadily grown. She is widely considered to be one of the world's most important and influential contemporary sculptors.

"This provocative intervention will challenge visitors to see the Walters' collections afresh," said Thom Collins, "Bourgeois' fans will no doubt discover resonant new connections between her artistic project and those of her forebears."

"I am pleased to be included amongst the art of so many civilizations," said Louise Bourgeois. "I know that I am just one stone in a very large wall."

The encyclopedic nature of the Walters' holdings means that Bourgeois is able to situate her work in dialogue with art objects that have long been recognized as having a natural affinity for the artist's work. For example, Bourgeois' Harmless Woman (1969) will be installed near a Minoan fertility figure dating to 4,000 B.C., while her soft cloth female figure of St. Sebastienne (2002), will be exhibited directly in front of an early Renaissance panel painting of St. Sebastian. Bourgeois has pointedly recast the saint's gender as female.

A highlight of the installation will be the large aluminum hanging-sculpture, The Couple, which has never before been exhibited. The piece, which interacts with the Walters' dramatic spiral entrance staircase, is reminiscent of some of Bourgeois' early paintings in which recognizable body parts are grafted onto architectural or geometric forms. The couple is a recurring theme in her work, and the spiral, her metaphor for consistency, is also a favorite motif.

"Her work continues to provoke lively debate among both critics and art historians," said Eik Kahng, Walters curator of 18th- and 19th-century art. "Bourgeois' work will energize the Walters' permanent collection galleries in mesmerizing and, at times, challenging ways. Visitors will come away with an entirely new way of seeing both our own collection and the art of this always engaging artist."

As part of the exhibition, the Contemporary Museum will be showing the film Louise Bourgeois: C'est le murmure de l'eau qui chante (A Portrait of the Artist) by Brigitte Cornand produced by Les Films du Siamois, France, 2002. The 92 minute film will be played in a loop Wednesday through Sunday from noon to 5 p.m., and was previewed previously with a special screening at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.

The great filmmaker Jonas Mekas wrote of the film, "At a special preview of this film...there was no face in the audience that was not lit with special happiness. It's a very happy and funny film with one single protagonist keeping the audience on the edge of their seats. That protagonist is not other but the amazing Louise Bourgeois, as she talks, cracks jokes and plays games while, at the same time, she works non-stop on the materials of her art..."

The Contemporary will also have on view, Topiary, The Art Of Improving Nature (1998), a portfolio of nine copperplate etchings in which trees morph into bodies.

In addition, on Thursday, April 6, at 7 p.m., the Contemporary will host the program Engaging Bourgeois: Irene Hofmann and Kathy O'Dell in Conversation. Hofmann, executive director of the Contemporary Museum, and O'Dell, art historian and associate dean of arts, humanities and social sciences at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, will talk and walk from the Contemporary to the Walters discussing the works of Bourgeois on view at each museum. This gallery talk will explore the concepts, forms and images that populate Bourgeois' evocative work. This program begins at the Contemporary and ends at the Walters.

About the Artist

Bourgeois' work has been presented in more than 400 group exhibitions and 200 solo exhibitions at prestigious venues such as the Whitney Museum of American Art (2003), Dia Center for the Arts (2003), Palais de Tokyo (2002), State Hermitage Museum (2001), Guggenheim Museum Bilbao (2001), Museum Nacional Centro de Art Reina Sofia (1999), Art Gallery of Ontario (1998), Centro Cultural do Brasil (1997), Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney (1996) and the Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou (1995). In 1983, Bourgeois was the first woman to receive a retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and, in 1993, she was selected to represent the United States at the Venice Biennale where she was awarded the Golden Lion. Her art is represented in more than 60 public collections throughout the world. Still active at the venerable age of 94, Bourgeois lives and works in New York. Jerry Gorovoy, her long-time collaborator, continues to work closely with the artist, as he did in the selection and placement of Bourgeois' work at the Walters.

Admission and Hours

Admission to the special exhibition at the Walters is included in general museum admission, which is $10 for adults, $8 for senior citizens (65+), $6 for college students with ID (18-25), $2 for children ages 6-17 and free for children under 6 and for members. Admission to the permanent collection only is free on Saturdays from 10 a.m.-noon and all day on the first Thursday of every month. Admission to Louise Bourgeois: Femme will be half-price at those times. Museum hours are Wednesday-Sunday from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. The museum is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.

The suggested admission to the Contemporary is $3-5. Museum hours are Wednesday-Sunday from noon-5 p.m.

The Walters Art Museum

The Walters Art Museum is located in Baltimore's historic Mount Vernon Cultural District at North Charles and Centre streets and is one of only a few museums worldwide to present a comprehensive history of art from the third millennium B.C. to the early 20th century. Among its thousands of treasures, the Walters holds the finest collection of ivories, jewelry, enamels and bronzes in America and a spectacular reserve of illuminated manuscripts and rare books. The Walters' Egyptian, Greek and Roman, Byzantine, Ethiopian and western medieval art collections are among the best in the nation, as are the museum's holdings of Renaissance and Asian art. Every major trend in French painting during the 19th century is represented by one or more works in the Walters' collection.

Peabody Court is the official hotel of the Walters Art Museum. This historic property is just around the corner from the museum and features George's, a full-service restaurant. For hotel reservations, call 1-800-292-5500 and ask for the special Walters discounted rate.

The Contemporary Museum

The Contemporary Museum is located at 100 West Centre Street in Baltimore. Founded in 1989, the Contemporary is the only U.S. museum exclusively dedicated to producing and presenting new art and exhibitions by bringing artists and curators into its home city and setting them in direct dialogue and collaboration with local communities and cultural institutions.