Louise Bourgeois lived and worked in a brownstone townhouse in Chelsea, New York, West 22nd Street. She moved to New York from Paris with her husband, the art historian Robert Goldwater, in 1962. Only 15 feet wide, the house remains today exactly as she left it when she died in 2010 aged 98.
When Goldwater died in 1973 Bourgeois got rid of the furniture in order to make more space for producing art. Even the kitchen stove was replaced with a smaller two ring hob…
She knocked through walls and put in spiral staircases, anything to give herself more work space.
In her later years Bourgeois became agoraphobic and seldom left home, but every Sunday afternoon she hosted ‘Sunday, Bloody Sundays’ when she opened her house to artists to talk about their work. She loved listening to other people’s love lives and when asked to critique another artist she always gave an honest opinion and could be quite harsh with her comments. Sometimes fights broke out and sometimes people left the house in tears.
Indeed Bourgeois could be extremely rude to people for no apparent reason. When she was a girl her father cheated on her mother and Bourgeois tried to commit suicide. She always remained ’emotionally fragile’ after this and often attributed her rudeness to her father’s affair. She would also have fits of rage and storm about the house smashing up her work.
Today you can still see her hairbrushes, complete with hair, and half-used bottles of nail varnishes. Everything has been kept, along with food in the cupboards and hundreds of tubes of paint.
Note the photo of Bono from U2. Both Bourgeois and Bono were recipients of the Legion d’Honneur and of course, Bono famously sang Sunday, Bloody Sunday!
As she got older and her eyesight began to fail Bourgeois wrote important phone numbers directly on the wall.
In the sitting room is a tower of chocolate boxes and biscuit tins over six feet high. On the very top is a tube of Harrods’ biscuits and a bottle of Glenmorangie scotch.
Some of her work remains in the basement…
Part of her Suspension series where her sculptures hang from the ceiling…
And here are a few images of Bourgeois in her house…
I’ll end with a wonderful clip showing Bourgeois perform a trick with a tangerine that illustrates both her disdain for her father and her wicked sense of humour. Enjoy, and I bet you never look at a tangerine innocently ever again!
words: CAND JUSKUS