Louise Bourgeois and the Wonder Whys – a day at mima

1 Dec 2014

Anthony d'Offay and Jerry Gorovoy visit ARTIST ROOMS: Louise Bourgeois in Middlesbrough. 

Louise Bourgeois was an artist of exceptional courage. Her works are as though she owes nothing to any other artist, living or dead. She made work about the inside of the body. She made work about love and lust and fear. She made a sculpture so large and powerful that it could tiptoe on its eight legs right over the top of a building. She is one of the greatest artists of my lifetime, of anyone’s lifetime.

She was assisted in her extraordinarily productive final years—this was a woman who was still creating art of staggering power into her ninety-ninth year—by Jerry Gorovoy. It is to him that Bourgeois’ series 10 am is when you come to me (2006), one of the many great works that we are delighted to have assembled for ARTIST ROOMS, is addressed, and so it was with enormous pleasure that I travelled with Jerry to Middlesbrough to visit mima’s exhibition of this great artist’s work.

We were delighted that mima should be the first associate gallery to present Louise Bourgeois as part of ARTIST ROOMS. It seems appropriate that an artist who so defied the conventions of age, continuing to the very end to make ground-breaking work about childhood and adolescence, about love and loneliness, about old age and death, should be exhibited at an institution that does so much to engage young people in the appreciation and exhibition of art. I am always thrilled to meet mima’s award-winning young friends group, the wonderfully-named Wonder Whys, and invigorated by the fresh new perspectives they are able to offer.

What a privilege it was for me to sit in front of an audience with Jerry, who can offer such amazing personal insights into the daily practice of this extraordinary artist, and Tate’s Frances Morris, a brilliant authority on Louise Bourgeois who has the happy knack of being able to make the most complex ideas seem like self-evident truths. And yet the greatest joy of all was to witness the young people so enthused by these magnificent works, to hear them offer their own interpretations on these sculptures, drawings and installations, and to describe what these works of art meant to them. ARTIST ROOMS was founded to inspire young people, to foster creativity in future generations. To see the spirit of Louise Bourgeois in the young people of Middlesbrough was among the most extraordinary experiences I can ever remember.