Collection Online

Cell (Glass spheres and hands)

glass, iron, wood, linoleum, canvas, marble
(a-m) 219.5 × 218.8 × 220.0 cm (installation)
Place/s of Execution
New York, New York, United States
Accession Number
International Sculpture
Credit Line
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with the assistance of the Leslie Moira Henderson Bequest, 1995
© Louise Bourgeois/VAGA, New York. Licensed by VISCOPY, Australia
Gallery location
Not on display
Small room constructed of discarded steel window grids with broken glass. In the room are 3 kitchen chairs, 2 stools with glass spheres on each, arranged around a table on which sits a carved pair of clasped hands in pink marble.

Identity and self-scrutiny, memory, and the inherent tensions of human relationships are the core of Louise Bourgeois’s art. Although Bourgeois often referred to her works as a means of processing memories of traumatic episodes from the past, it is the ongoing presence of the past in her memory, and the layers of her personal history and psyche that generate her diaristic art. Bourgeois is acclaimed as one of the most innovative artists to have emerged in the United States in the second-half of the twentieth century. She was especially prolific from the early 1980s, and from 1990 produced a vast series of ‘cells’ – cubic or cylindrical chambers into which she placed objects and smaller works found in and around her studio.

The industrial window frames of Cell (Glass spheres and hands) typify Bourgeois’s environments.

In this work the artist reconfigures her family, including her father’s mistress, each member represented in the form of a glass sphere closed off from the possibility of interpersonal communication. The clasped hands are Bourgeois’s self-portrait, and, like other fragments of anatomy that appear consistently in her works, embody anxiety, isolation and emotional intensity.