Selling for $16.5 Million, ‘Spider IV’ by Louise Bourgeois Becomes Asia’s Priciest Modern Sculpture
A major spider sculpture by Louise Bourgeois highlighted Sotheby’s Contemporary Evening Auction in Hong Kong on April 27, 2022. It was the most expensive modern and contemporary sculpture ever to be offered in Asia and achieved a record HKD 129.2 million (USD 16.5 million).
Spider IV by Louise Bourgeois led the auction catalog with an estimate of USD 15 million to $20 million. Executed in 1996, the rare bronze sculpture is one of six limited editions created by the artist. Since 2006, Bourgeois’ spider sculptures have been setting records at various auctions, giving her accolades like the highest-paid living woman artist at the time and the highest price paid for an artwork by a woman artist. Nine out of the ten most expensive works by Louise Bourgeois are different renditions of the Spider series. Here is a brief history of the spider sculptures at auction:
- 2006: Spider sold for $4 million
- 2011: Number two of the six-edition Spider sold for $10.7 million
- 2015: Number three of the same work sold for $28.2 million
- 2019: The resale of the second version sold for a record $32.1 million
- 2022: Spider IV sells for $16.5 million, the most expensive sculpture offered at an auction in Asia
Widely recognized as the artist’s signature subject, the arachnids are said to be of great significance in the history of modern art. The recently-sold Spider IV is often admired as the most iconic, recognizable, and perpetually enduring iteration of Bourgeois’ beloved form.
Childhood memories and early-career experiments inspired the artist to choose spiders and repeatedly feature them as the protagonists in her works. Metaphorically, the traits of the spider reminded the artist of her mother. Describing the spider as a “friend,” Louise Bourgeois said: “The friend because my best friend was my mother and she was deliberate, clever, patient, soothing, reasonable, dainty, subtle, indispensable, neat, and as useful as a spider. She could also defend herself, and me…”
Biologically, Bourgeois may have borrowed the idea of a spider from the Bourgeois family business of restoring antique tapestries. To describe her thought process, Bourgeois used terminology that describes both the business and a spider: sewing a huge web that would tuck her in, repairing torn fabrics, etc.
During her career, Louise Bourgeois made five editions of the Spider sculptures, three of which were made to be wall-mounted. Spider IV is a lifelike sculpture that demonstrates the destructive as well as the maternal and nurturing attributes of the eight-legged arthropods. Conceived in 1996, the sculpture was cast a year later in 1997.
In addition to the Spider IV sculpture, Sotheby’s Contemporary Evening Auction in Hong Kong also featured an important work by Yoshitomo Nara, sold for HKD 112 million (USD 14.3 million). Oddly Cozy is a monumentally sized painting by the Japanese artist whose most significant body of work captures the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011. The piece had an estimate of $10 million to $15 million.
The sale also included notable results for works by leading women artists, past and present, like Yayoi Kusama, Christine Ay Tjoe, Loie Hollowell, and María Berrío. Visit the auction house’s website to view the complete results.
Looking for more auction reports? Earlier this April, Auction Daily covered the strong results of Ladenburger Spielzeugauktion’s premier Steiff sale.