Eye Benches II, 1996-1997
Known for her large-scale sculptures and installations, Louise Bourgeois (1911–2010) was one of the most influential artists of the twentieth century. Born in Paris, Bourgeois worked in her family’s tapestry restoration workshop as a young child and then studied mathematics before she enrolled at the École des Beaux-Arts. When she was 27, she married American art historian Robert Goldwater and moved to New York City. She studied at The Art Students League in New York and in the 1940s began making sculptures.
Regarding Eye Benches I and Eye Benches II, Bourgeois stated, “There is a pleasure in sitting outside and watching people walk by. You look at them, and sometimes they look back at you. These encounters and perceptions interest me. In this sense, the Eye Benches relate to the story of the voyeur. . . . Whether it is an eye that sees the reality of things or whether it is an eye that sees a world of fantasy. . . . It is the quality of your eyes and the strength of your eyes that are expressed here. Nobody is going to keep me from seeing what is instead of what I would like.”
In 1982, Bourgeois was the first female artist to have a retrospective at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. In 1993, she represented the United States at the 45th Venice Biennale. She has been the subject of numerous shows, including the first exhibition of a living American artist at the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg in 2001. In 2007, another major retrospective of her work was held at the Tate Modern in London and Centre Pompidou in Paris. During her lifetime, Bourgeois received many honors and awards and was named Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French Minister of Culture in 1983. She was awarded the Grand Prix National de Sculpture from the French government in 1991, the National Medal of Arts in 1997, and the first Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Sculpture Center in Washington, DC. She was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1981.