You have to tell your story and you have to forget your story. You forget and forgive. It liberates you ⎯ Louise Bourgeois

In collaboration with the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, visitors will be able to discover and experience 28 emotionally charged architectural spaces, each an individual microcosm separating the internal from the external world, by one of the most influential artists of the twentieth century.

In these unique architectural spaces, the artist composed from found objects, garments, furniture, and distinctive sculptures into emotionally charged theatrical sets. For Franco-American artist Louise Bourgeois, the word cell had several connotations, referring to both the isolation of a prison or monastic cell and the biological cell of a living organism.

Bourgeois herself stated that her art is existentialist, allowing her to make sense of everything. Like an exercise in psychoanalysis, it enabled her to plumb the depths of her unconscious and sublimate certain aspects of the past, especially those related to her childhood and family relationships.

Born in Paris on December 25, 1911, Bourgeois spent part of her childhood in the nearby suburb of Antony, where her parents ran a tapestry restoration workshop. She enrolled at the Sorbonne to study philosophy and mathematics, but after her mother’s passing in 1932, she dropped out of her math courses and began to study art at various academies, schools, and studios, including that of Fernand Léger. In 1938, Bourgeois met the American art historian Robert Goldwater; they married that same year and moved to New York City.

The Cells have a dual symbolism and can be interpreted as lairs or as spaces of protection or reclusion. Several characteristic aspects of contemporary art—the objectual, the formal, the spatial, the psychological, experience, and subjectivity—converge in these works. The Cell series revolves around the desire to simultaneously remember and forget.

You have to tell your story and you have to forget your story. You forget and forgive. It liberates you, Louise Bourgeois once claimed.

In this respect, the Cells contain references to individuals and experiences from the past. The needles, thread, and spindles incorporated in these works allude to the artist’s childhood and her parents’ work—Bourgeois’s mother restored valuable tapestry.


Structures of Existence: The Cells;
March 18 – September 4, 2016


Guggenheim Museum
+34 944 359 008


Haus der Kunst


Julienne Lorz and Petra Joos