Lot 30
  • 30

Louise Bourgeois

450,000 - 650,000 GBP
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  • Louise Bourgeois
  • Fear Four
  • signed and dated 1984 on the side edge
  • marble
  • 47 by 92 by 88cm; 18 1/2 by 36 1/4 by 34 3/4 in.
  • with base: 82 by 96 by 92cm.; 32 1/4 by 37 7/8 by 36 1/4 in.
  • This work is unique.


Robert Miller Gallery, New York 

Galerie Karsten Greve AG, Zurich

Acquired directly from the above by the present owner in 2006


New York, Robert Miller Gallery, Louise Bourgeois: Sculpture, 1984

Pittsburgh, University of Pittsburgh Gallery, Sculpture by Women in the Eighties, 1985, p. 6, illustrated in colour

New York, Carlo Lamagna Gallery, Traps: Elements of Psychic Seduction, 1986-87

Syracuse, Everson Museum of Art, Louise Bourgeois, 1989

Paris, Galerie Piece Unique, Louise Bourgeois, 1995

Salzburg, Museum der Moderne: Rupertinum, Louise Bourgeois: Skulpturen und Objekte, 1996

Malaga, Centro de Arte Contemporáneo, on loan to the permanent collection until 2014


Exhibition Catalogue, Cologne, Galerie Karsten Greve, Louise Bourgeois chez Karsten Greve, 1999, p. 73, illustrated in colour

Jacqueline Caux, Tissée, Tendue au Fil des Jours: La Toile de Louise Bourgeois, 1999, p. 155, illustrated 


Colour: The colour in the catalogue illustration is fairly accurate, although the overall tonality is slightly warmer in the original. Condition: This work is in very good condition.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Created in 1984, two years after her first retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, Fear Four is a true exemplification of Louise Bourgeois’ utterly singular artistic production: a pioneering exploration of a primal psychological world in three-dimensions. Though intercepting with various art movements since the 1940s, including Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism and first-generation New York Feminism to name a few, Bourgeois’ practice is entirely her own; her work promulgates an inimitable reservoir of forms that are entrenched within a unique mythology.

Through her work Bourgeois retrospectively replays, reprises and replicates the unabated psychological distress that devastated her youth. Though born into a comfortable and affluent family on the provincial outskirts of Paris, family life was fractured. Her father was authoritarian and belittling, while his infidelity with the artist’s live-in English tutor Sadie (of which her mother was fully aware) caused irreparable damage: fear of betrayal and abandonment that would find its most searing expression in the highly celebrated corpus of ‘old-age’ work to which the present work belongs. Initiated when she was well into her seventh decade, these works mark a return of the repressed, recalling the materials, spaces and forms inextricably bound to nascent anger and anxiety. As directly alluded to in the title of the present work, anxiety and fear are manifest and exorcised throughout Bourgeois’ practice.

Such formative notions of fear or anxiety nonetheless bore deeper in Bourgeois’ work channeling psychoanalytical theories on the instinctual development of a child, namely in relation to Jacques Lacan’s concept of the part-object: objet petit a. In Fear Four, the removable set of ‘eyes’ on the flat polished surface can be understood to represent this part-object. As explained by Rosalind Krauss: “This 'object little a' is the target of infantile desire, a target always threatening the child with its potential absence. The infant’s drive towards the mother’s breast must be called an instinct, fully born as it is with the very birth of the child. For the newborn, suckling divides the mother’s breast from its bodily support, separating the organ from her as the target to satisfy the infant’s needs. The world of the infant splinters into such part objects: its own desiring organs as well as their reciprocal targets: so many breasts, mouths, bellies, penises, anuses… the part-object speaks to the imperiousness of their drives, to the rapacity of their demands, to the way the body can, in the grip of instinct, be riven, cannibalised, shattered. The objet petit a addresses the reciprocity between the drive and its desired target, such target, whether the mother’s gaze or her breast, always threatening to withdraw” (Rosalind Krauss quoted in: Exhibition Catalogue, London, Tate Modern, Louise Bourgeois, 2007, p. 200). As in the present work, the threat of withdrawing the ‘eyes’ that slot into place – which incidentally also resemble breasts – obeys the strategy of depriving the child’s claim to ‘personhood’, which in psychoanalysis is the developmental drive to create the part-object (Ibid.). That this work also features a well of seemingly internalised breasts, further articulates the infant’s desire to introject the part-object. Indeed, a plural evocation of shapes resembling breasts, phalluses, male and female genitalia comingle and undulate within the womb-like opening of Fear Four.

Given her interest in psychoanalysis, the duality of both male and female gendered shapes, indicated through an incessant clustering of breast-like or phallic protuberances, is particularly evocative of Carl Jung’s theories on the collective unconscious: these works proffer a distinctly Jungian wish for a union of opposites. In his theory of the collective unconscious Jung postulated that the male/female psyche possess unconscious feminine/masculine psychological qualities: the anima and animus thus refer to the feminine inner-personality of the male self, and the masculine inner-personality of the female self respectively. As opposed to the personal unconscious and its reservoir of unique and individual experience, the collective unconscious presupposes an autonomous model for organising experience that is the same across humanity. With particular reference to Fear Four it is interesting to note that Jung’s theory of the unconscious self is composed of four parts: the self, anima, animus and the shadow. Herein, Bourgeois’ work can be viewed as an expression of this unknowable, inchoate and yet collective psychological realm in which opposites unite: male is female and female is male.