Giant steel-and-marble spider makes return to Tate Modern

When Tate Modern opened its doors to the public seven years ago, it launched the first of its sublime, large-scale exhibitions in the Turbine Hall by installing Louise Bourgeois' gigantic steel-and-marble spider. The work drew unprecedented crowds and was followed by a succession of colossal sculptures created by some of the world's leading artists for the gallery's Unilever Series.

Maman, which loomed over the central mezzanine of the Bankside gallery in 2000, is now back after being donated by the artist and an anonymous benefactor, the gallery announced yesterday.

The sculpture, which stands more than nine-metres high (30ft) and is one of Bourgeois's most iconic works, was so significant in her career that she went on to make six bronze casts of it, which are on permanent display at some of the world's greatest galleries.

A bronze version of Maman is currently on display outside Tate Modern as part of a major Bourgeois retrospective which runs until 20 January and which has proved to be one of the most popular exhibitions of sculpture at the Tate.

The original work is the largest spider sculpture ever made by Bourgeois and alludes to the strength of the mother with metaphors of spinning, weaving and protection, according to the artist, who has called it "an ode to my mother".

She said: "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 very clever. Spiders are very friendly and eat mosquitoes. We know mosquitoes spread diseases and are therefore unwanted. So, spiders are helpful and protective, just like my mother."

Vicente Todoli, the director of Tate Modern, said: "To acquire Maman, one of Louise Bourgeois's best-known and seminal works, the largest of her spider sculptures, is a historic moment for Tate. This work significantly enhances our holdings of the work of one of the world's greatest living sculptors."

Bourgeois, now 96, was born in 1911 in Paris and moved to New York in 1938. Over the course of seven decades, her work has ranged in scale from small, obsessively worked objects to large installations. Some of her work is celebrated for being autobiographical.

As a housewife raising sons in the 1940s and 50s, Bourgeois made only a few small-scale pieces such as The Blind Leading the Blind, which looked back to the weavers' tools of her childhood, as well as portraits of a woman constrained by time and space. But years later, after acquiring a vast studio in Brooklyn which would be her workplace for 15 years, her sculptures shot up in scale and ambition, notably the Cell pieces – large cages holding relics of her life. Her latest sculptures are of heads and bodies clothed in fabrics from her father's shop, which she acquired after his death in 1951.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Female Care Worker

£7 - £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This expanding, vibrant charity which su...

Recruitment Genius: Parts Supervisor & Advisor - Automotive

£16500 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the South East's leading...

Recruitment Genius: Housing Assistant

£16819 - £21063 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Account Manager - OTE £60,000

£35000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In 2014, they launched the worl...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones