Contemporary Art

The Friendship of Louise Bourgeois & Ginny Williams

New York

E pitomizing an immense creative range and resolutely singular vision, and emblematic of the lasting friendship they shared, the present selection of works by Louise Bourgeois from the collection of Ginny Williams demonstrates the myriad ways in which the artist translated her unique visual language across an unparalleled range of media.


A close friend of Louise Bourgeois, Ginny collected the artist’s work in depth, amassing more than 40 sculptures and works on paper spanning more than four decades of her career; today, this group remains one the world’s largest privately-held collection of the artist’s extraordinary oeuvre.

Prolific in a variety of media, Bourgeois is perhaps best known for her sculptures, which range in scale from the intimate to the monumental, and across a diverse array of materials including wood, bronze, latex, marble, and fabric. Moving freely between abstraction and figuration, she developed a richly symbolic visual idiom that encompasses totemic forms, ambiguously gendered anatomical fragments, and monolithic presences, all of which are featured in the present collection. A testament to Williams singular eye as collector and patron, the present selection, just as with Bourgeois’ larger body of work, offers a cathartic and performative exploration into the female body and self.

(left) Louise Bourgeois, Observer, 1947-49. Estimate $1,500,000 – 2,000,000; (right) Louise Bourgeois, Untitled (with Growth), 1989. Estimate $1,200,000 – 1,800,000.

Conceived in the early years of Bourgeois’ practice, Observer is a captivating stela-like bronze sculpture of human scale from the artist’s seminal Personages series; despite the high degree of abstraction, the compelling sculpture exhibits unequivocally anthropomorphic characteristics, conjuring potent echoes of human presence. In contrast, the 1989 sculpture Untitled (With Growth) abandons human form in pursuit of more surreal and organic sources, the delicately carved pink marble and clustered group of phallic forms collapse traditional distinctions between male and female imagery, seamlessly embodying the innate ambiguity that characterizes Bourgeois’ oeuvre.

Details of the two present works: (left) Louise Bourgeois, Untitled (with Growth), 1989; Estimate $1,200,000 – 1,800,000; (right) Louise Bourgeois, Observer, 1947-49. Estimate $1,500,000 – 2,000,000.

This same intriguing and uncanny uncertainty pervades Eye Benches I, a pair of Zimbabwean marble sculptures that aptly capture the artist’s career-long fascination with voyeurism, fantasy, and the gaze. Executed in 1996-97, three years after Bourgeois was selected to represent the United States at the 1993 Venice Biennale, the Eye Benches represent a conceptual zenith of her career, with examples from the same cast held in prestigious institutional collections worldwide.

Louise Bourgeois, Eye Benches I, 1996-97. Estimate $800,000 – 1,200,000.

In their depiction of Bourgeois’ most essential images and themes, these diverse yet conceptually coherent sculptures provide an elegant overview of the artist’s work across decades and media and attest to the singular affinity Williams felt for her friend’s work. Further explored in the smaller-scale sculptures and works on paper by the artist which Ginny amassed over her lifetime, many of which will be offered in the Contemporary Art Day Auction on June 30 the Ginny Williams Collection eloquently documents the extraordinary brilliance and prolific practice which distinguishes Louise Bourgeois as amongst the foremost female artists – and artistic spirits at large—of the last century.

From Sotheby's Contemporary Art Day Auction: LOUISE BOURGEOIS, ECHO I, Conceived in 2007 and cast in 2008. Estimate $800,000 – 1,200,000.

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