A 30ft bronze and marble spider was installed on the banks of the Thames by the Tate Modern gallery yesterday as part of an exhibition focusing on the work Louise Bourgeois. The towering arachnid, entitled Maman, is among the highlights of a show which opens next week and spans seven decades of the Parisian-born artist's work. It is the first time one of her spiders has been placed outdoors in Britain.
It is one of a series of six giant spiders made in the Nineties, and the work alludes to the strength of the mother, according to the artist. Bourgeois said: "The spider is an ode to my mother. She was my best friend. Like a spider, my mother was a weaver. My family was in the business of tapestry restoration, and my mother was in charge of the workshop. Like spiders, my mother was clever. Spiders are friendly and eat mosquitoes. We know that mosquitoes spread diseases and are therefore unwanted. So, spiders are helpful and protective, just like my mother."
A version of Maman was part of Bourgeois's inaugural commission for the Unilever Series for Tate Modern's vast Turbine Hall, which was installed when the gallery opened in 2000.
Born in 1911, Bourgeois has been at the forefront of new developments in art, and is regarded as one of the most important living artists.
Bronze casts of Maman are on permanent display at the Guggenheim in Spain, Samsung Museum of Art in Korea, Mori Art Centre in Japan and the National Gallery of Canada.
Louise Bourgeois, at Tate Modern from 10 October until 20 January 2008