Museum of Modern Art New York (MoMA) announces Louise Bourgeois website

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) has launched a major website documenting the printmaking of Louise Bourgeois. This site, Louise Bourgeois: The Complete Prints & Books, focuses on the artist’s creative process by presenting the many evolving states she made in the lead-up to her final print compositions. It also places Bourgeois’s prints and illustrated books within the context of her overall production by including sculptures and drawings that deal with the same themes and imagery. This approach is particularly meaningful for Bourgeois’s work, since she constantly reworked her compositions and investigated the same core themes throughout her career.

Bourgeois and Printmaking
Bourgeois’s printmaking flourished during the early and late phases of her career: in the 1930s and 1940s, when she first came to New York from Paris, and then again starting in the 1980s, when her work began to receive wide recognition. Early on, she made prints at home on a small press, or at the renowned workshop Atelier 17. That period was followed by a long hiatus, as Bourgeois turned her attention fully to sculpture. It was not until she was in her 70s that she began to make prints again, encouraged first by print publishers. She set up her old press, and added a second, while also working closely with printers who came to her house to collaborate. A very active phase of printmaking followed, lasting until the artist’s death in 2010, at the age of 98. Bourgeois’s total print output numbers some 3,500 sheets, including evolving states and final compositions.

The Bourgeois Collection at MoMA
The Museum of Modern Art’s collection includes a highly representative selection of Bourgeois’s work, from the seminal Sleeping Figure (1950) and the infamous Fillette (1968), to the room-sized installation of mixed-media works on paper called À l’infini, from 2008. However, the greatest concentration is found in the Department of Prints and Illustrated Books. In 1990, Bourgeois decided to donate a complete archive of her printed work to the Museum. That archive will ultimately be fully available on the new website. Presently, the site represents 400 works on the themes of Spiders and printed Fabric Works. These will be supplemented each year, and organized by such themes as Abstraction, Body Parts, Motherhood & Family, Objects, Nature, and Words, among others. Completion of the website is expected in 2015.

Book vs. Website
With a vast collection of prints to be documented, publishing a traditional catalogue raisonné in book format was impractical, requiring seven or eight volumes. Such an opus would have been accessible primarily to specialists, while the website catalogue is geared also to the general art public. Moreover, interactive digital media allows for features that provide an especially vivid look at the artist’s creative process. These include searches by theme, publisher and printer, and technique, as well as an “Evolving Composition Diagram,” in which viewers immediately grasp a composition’s development. This diagram is enhanced by a pioneering “Compare Works” mode, where two sheets can be placed side-by-side to compare and contrast. In addition, individual prints can be examined at close range through a “Zoom” feature, which is particularly useful for studying intricate details.

Website Collaborators
Museum projects are the result of team efforts, but this extensive website required even more pooling of resources than usual; the site’s structure and functioning emerged only through a back-and-forth dialogue between specialists with varying expertise. The Louise Bourgeois: The Complete Prints & Books website is the initiative of MoMA’s Department of Prints and Illustrated Books, led by Deborah Wye, Chief Curator Emerita, a longtime scholar of Bourgeois’s work. The site was envisioned and produced together with the Museum’s departments of Digital Media and Collection and Exhibition Technologies. This in-house group depended also on essential contributions from outside Web designers Kiss Me I’m Polish and Redub, developers CogApp, and the Louise Bourgeois Studio. The website is generously supported by The Easton Foundation.


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