The Qatar Museums Authority (QMA) has announced the first solo survey exhibition in the Middle East of the work of Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010), one of the most influential and groundbreaking artists of the 20th century. Curated by Philip Larratt-Smith, Louise Bourgeois: Conscious and Unconscious will be on view at the QMA Gallery at Katara from 20 January – 1 June, 2012, and will feature approximately 30 works from all periods of the artist’s long career, including sculptures, installations, drawings and fabric works from 1947 to 2009.
The exhibition will complement and contextualise the installation of Bourgeois’s monumental sculpture Maman (1999), which was unveiled last month at the Qatar National Convention Center in Doha. Bourgeois conceived Maman, a 9-metre-high bronze spider, as an ode to her mother.
“Louise Bourgeois: Conscious and Unconscious is part of a series of cultural initiatives organised by the Qatar Museums Authority to promote and support local and international art, foster conversations about artists and popular culture, and build bridges between cultures,” said Qatar Museums Authority Chairperson Her Excellency Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani. “Louise Bourgeois is one of the most important and respected female artists of the 20th century and we are honored to present the late artist’s first solo exhibition in the Middle East.”
Exhibition Overview
Conscious and Unconscious will offer a representative survey of Louise Bourgeois’s highly autobiographical and diverse body of work, which addresses themes of motherhood, identity, memory, and the cycles of life. Her work is characterised by raw emotional content and formal invention, hovering between figuration and abstraction, the geometric and the organic, the bodily and the architectural.
In her art, Bourgeois found sculptural equivalents for her psychological states, creating a symbolic language that is both universal and uniquely her own. The exhibition will showcase the wide variety of materials that Bourgeois used throughout her career, including carved wooden vertical forms in the late 1940s, amorphous and labyrinthine poured forms in latex and plaster in the 1960s, carved marble pieces in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Cell installations of the 1990-2000s, and fabric and red gouache works late in her career.
The exhibition title Conscious and Unconscious refers to the psychological implications of Bourgeois’s art, which gave her insight into her actions, motivations, and emotions. It also encapsulates the dynamic of Bourgeois’s creative process, as she oscillated between making rational decisions and blindly following her intuition to arrive at a form that expressed her deep unconscious. According to Bourgeois, the artist enjoys the privilege of access to the unconscious. She also believed that art offered her a way to exorcise anxiety and the powerful fear of abandonment that plagued her since childhood. Although she underwent analysis for many years, she felt that art was her true form of psychoanalysis and a guarantee of sanity.
Curator Philip Larratt-Smith worked as Louise Bourgeois’s literary archivist from 2002 to 2010. He is currently the curator of the international program at Malba – Fundación Costantini in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

While Bourgeois’s poetic objects articulate her unique past and memories, they seem to necessitate a response in viewers: a call to action to inspect our own emotions and hidden secrets. When visitors emerge from the emotional journey through Conscious and Unconscious, they will be asked to contribute their own hidden “secret”—such as a regret, fear, desire, or confession—to a group art project. Postcards will be provided for visitors to express their thoughts through writing or images, which will then be posted onto QMA’s group Flickr account—acting as an online QMA Gallery of Confessional Art—as well as sent en mass to the online website which inspired the project, Postsecret.com.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a publication in Arabic and English, featuring essays by Philip Larratt-Smith and Sophia Al-Maria, as well as full-colour images of all works in the exhibition and an illustrated chronology of the artist’s life and work.
About Louise Bourgeois
Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010) was born in France into a family of tapestry restorers. Bourgeois studied mathematics and philosophy at the Sorbonne before deciding to study art at various academies and ateliers in Paris, including that of artist Fernand Léger. In 1938, she married the American art historian Robert Goldwater and moved to New York City, where they had three sons. Bourgeois had her first solo exhibition of paintings in New York in 1945, followed by three exhibitions of sculpture beginning in 1949. She became an American citizen in 1955, and lived and worked in New York for the rest of her life. Late in life, Bourgeois received great acclaim with her retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in 1982, the first ever given to a woman artist. Her refusal of a signature style or subject matter, and her exploration of themes of gender and the body, has linked Bourgeois to younger generations of artists. Bourgeois began showing internationally in the late 1980s. In 1993, she represented the United States at the Venice Biennial, and in 2000 she made the inaugural installation at the Turbine Hall in the Tate Modern in London.
About Qatar Museums Authority
Established in 2005 to combine the resources of all museums in the State of Qatar, Qatar Museums Authority (QMA) is a governmental organisation whose remit is to develop museums and cultural institutions and provide an effective system for collecting, protecting, preserving and interpreting historic sites, monuments and artifacts. Under the leadership of its Chairperson H.E. Sheikha Al Mayassa, QMA is transforming the State of Qatar into a cultural hub of the Middle East. The Museum of Islamic Art, inaugurated in 2008, is the Authority’s flagship project. The organisation won further acclaim with the December 2010 opening of Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art. QMA’s goal of becoming a “global leader in the world of museums, art and heritage” will be advanced in the coming years with ambitious, world-class projects, including the Jean Nouvel-designed National Museum of Qatar. For further information, please visit www.qma.org.qa.

Louise Bourgeois: Conscious and Unconscious On view at QMA Gallery, Katara in Doha 20 January – 1 June, 2012

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