Arachnophobes, look away now! A rare spider sculpture by French-American artist Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010) will headline Sotheby’s Modern and Contemporary Art auction in Hong Kong later this month. It could become the most expensive sculpture ever sold in Asia, luring in collectors with an estimated value of HK$120 million to $150 million (£11.5 million to £15.3 million).
“This sculpture shows Louise Bourgeois at her absolute finest,” said Alex Branczik, chairman of modern and contemporary art at Sotheby’s Asia.
Spider IV, which is nearly seven foot tall, was executed in 1996 as part of a limited collection of six bronze sculptures. Its spindly legs unfurl in an unsettling yet inviting manner as it appears to crawl up the wall it’s mounted on. Bourgeois produced many sculptures of spiders throughout her career, although only five have been sold at auction in the past decade.
The sculptures reminded Bourgeois of her own mother, who she described as “deliberate, clever, patient, soothing, reasonable, dainty, subtle, indispensable, neat, and as useful as a spider.”
Sotheby’s won the prized consignment against its arch-rival, Christie’s. Experts at the auction house believe the giant sculpture will appeal to the growing taste in Asia for work by Western artists, especially female artists.
“The decision to offer this sculpture in Hong Kong was very deliberate,” commented Branczik to Artnet News. “Since we first started offering Western art in the region in 2017, we’ve been seeing an ever-increasing appetite for the category across the continent—not only for works by the most celebrated Western artists through history but, in particular, for their very best works.”
Some of Asia’s top clients include younger women, who are becoming increasingly represented in public and private sectors in Asia and the Pacific. “On average over the past five years, almost 50 percent of our female collectors buying works for over $1 million have been from Asia,” explained Branczik.
Bourgeois’ piece last came to market in 2017, when it sold for US$14.6 million (£11.2 million) at Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening auction. The current auction record for a sculpture in Asia was set by Bourgeois’ Quarantania, a bronze work comprised of totemic figures, which fetched £6.5 million at Seoul Auction in 2018.