Gropius Bau presents "The Woven Child" focusing exclusively on Louise Bourgeois’s fabric-based works


Louise Bourgeois, Spider, 1997.jpg

Louise Bourgeois, Spider, 1997

© The Easton Foundation/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2022, photo: Erika Ede

From July 22 to October 23, 2022 the Gropius Bau presents The Woven Child, the first major retrospective of Louise Bourgeois to focus exclusively on the works that she made with fabrics and textiles during the final chapter of her storied career. This is the largest exhibition of the artist’s work in Berlin, with many works that have never been shown before in Germany.

“I came from a family of repairers. The spider is a repairer. If you bash into the web of a spider, she doesn’t get mad. She weaves and repairs it.” 

Louise Bourgeois


Louise Bourgeois, Cell VII, 1998. Metal, glass, fabric, bronze, steel, wood, bones, wax and thread; 207 x 221 x 210.8 cm; Private Collection

© The Easton Foundation/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2022 and VAGA at ARS, NY, Photo: Peter Bellamy

Beginning in the mid-1990s and continuing up until her death in 2010, Bourgeois created an astonishingly inventive, and psychologically charged, range of sculptures using domestic textiles, including clothing, linens and tapestry, often sourced from her own household and personal history. This departure from traditional sculptural materials represented a return to the artist’s roots. Bourgeois’s connection to fabric began in her childhood, during which she helped in her family’s tapestry restoration atelier. Her decision to create artworks from her clothes and household textiles was thus a means of transforming as well as preserving the past.


Louise Bourgeois, Eugénie Grandet, 2009. Mixed media on cloth, suite of 16; 30.5 x 21.6 x 1.9 cm, each; Collection: The Easton Foundation

© The Easton Foundation/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2022 and VAGA at ARS, NY, Photo: Christopher Burke

“For Louise Bourgeois, textiles were a way of enacting processes of mending and repair—psychologically, socially and materially. As well as our attention to the practice of crafts, such as stitching and weaving, repair is a core thematic bedrock of our programming. The Gropius Bau is excited to show The Woven Child, which elicits the ways in which questions of repair—so central to the Gropius Bau’s history, architecture and exhibitions—can be generative creatively.” 

Stephanie Rosenthal, Director of the Gropius Bau

Featuring 89 works, The Woven Child surveys the complete range of fabric artworks that Bourgeois produced during her last two decades. The exhibition includes major installations, notably several of Bourgeois’s Poles and Cells, in which hanging configurations of old dresses, slips and other garments reference her personal history. The imposing installation Spider (1997), and the related piece, Lady in Waiting (2003), incorporate fragments of antique tapestry. Bourgeois understood the spider as protector and predator, and associated it with her mother, a weaver and tapestry restorer.


Louise Bourgeois, Lady in Waiting, 2003. Tapestry, thread, stainless steel, steel, wood and glass; 208.3 x 110.5 x 147.3 cm; Collection: Glenstone Foundation, Potomac, MD

© The Easton Foundation/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2022 and VAGA at ARS, NY, Photo: Christopher Burke

The exhibition will include a comprehensive range of figurative sculptures, many of which are missing limbs and heads or feature fantastical bodies that call to mind characters from unsettling fairy tales. A significant selection of the artist’s fabric heads will be showcased, revealing the wide range of expressions that she elaborated. Also featured is a selection of Bourgeois’s “progressions”: columns of stacked textile blocks or lozenges, organised in ascending and descending sequences. With these works, Bourgeois returned to the vertical forms that dominated her early work in the 1940s and 1950s, only now rendered in soft materials.


Louise Bourgeois, Couple IV, 1997. Fabric, leather, stainless steel and plastic; 50.8 x 165.1 x 77.5 cm; Collection: The Easton Foundation

© The Easton Foundation/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2022 and VAGA at ARS, NY, Photo: Christopher Burke

“Over the course of her seven-decade-long career, Bourgeois continuously wove elements of her own biography—and her physical and psychological experiences—into her artworks. These threads are perhaps nowhere more apparent than in the late fabric works, which draw on and explore her relationship with her mother, her experience of vulnerability, of ageing, and her attitude to and intimacy with a wide range of materials, processes, tools and techniques. The result is a subtle and complex web that continues to surprise us to this day.” 

Julienne Lorz, Co-curator of The Woven Child


Louise Bourgeois, Cell XXV (The view of the world of the jealous wife), 2001. Steel, wood, marble, glass and fabric; 254 x 304.8 x 304.8 cm; Holma/Ellipse Collection – Lisbon, Portugal

© The Easton Foundation/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2022 and VAGA at ARS, NY, Photo: Christopher Burke

The Woven Child is curated by Ralph Rugoff, Director of the Hayward Gallery and Julienne Lorz, former Chief Curator of the Gropius Bau. The exhibition is organised by the Hayward Gallery, London, in association with the Gropius Bau, Berlin. It is accompanied by an extensive catalogue with scholarly essays edited by Ralph Rugoff, published by Hayward Gallery Publishing and Hatje Cantz, as well as a public programme.

About the exhibition

Dates: 22 July —23 October 2022, Wed to Mon 10:00 to 19:00 Tue closed

Venue: Gropius Bau

Courtesy of Gropius Bau.