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Exhibition Review

Louise Bourgeois, "le jour la nuit le jour"


By Patricia Boccadoro

PARIS, 25 October 2002 - Louise Bourgeois, "le jour la nuit le jour" is the title of an exhibition organized by illy caffè to celebrate their tenth anniversary. The Italian espresso coffee maker has chosen to pay tribute to French-born artist Louise Bourgeois at the Palais de Tokyo, the new venue dedicated to contemporary artistic creation in Paris. The show is conceived as a journey erasing physical space, leading the spectator on a mental voyage in ninety-year-old Louise's company.

A film is projected—not autobiographical, but showing fragments of her life—a life where she tells us, "I break everything I touch because I am violent. I destroy the relationships I have with my friends, with my loves, and with my children." She adds she breaks things because she's afraid, and then spends her time mending them.

However, she hasn't yet broken four or five sculptured armchairs, the backs of which are eyes which resemble side views of giant-sized snails, seemingly the only tangible proof of her presence here. Placed in a decor reminiscent of the back streets of West Side Story, they provided the valiant visitor with an escape from the teeming hordes around an endless buffet, where piped music put a stop to any intelligible conversation.

Louise Bourgeois: Eye-Benche II, 2002
Louise Bourgeois: Eye-Benche II, 2002
Black granite from Zimbabwe 122 x 195 x 118 cm.
Photo courtesy of Palais de Tokyo

What is there to see here? " Apples", said a colleague. "Lots of red apples". Indeed there were, piled high in metre-high transparent plastic containers, everywhere one looked. "And a mirror", he added. Effectively, on the top exhibition floor there was a solitary, oval, concave mirror, which one could admire whilst listening to ninety-year-old Louise crooning nursery rhymes in a little creaky voice over the loudspeaker.

Probably the only interesting feature of the exhibition was a rectangular table laid with coffee cups designed by such artists as Nam June Paik, Mimmo Paladino, and Jeff Koons. A few were most attractive, some extremely garish, most, simply curiosities.

I didn't get to taste any illy caffè, as for many French, coffee is "the drink that wakes us up in the morning", and isn't drunk at night. Neither did I get a sample in the take-away kit I was offered at the end; someone had been in my bag before me. However, I'd been left an originally designed Louise Bourgeois coffee cup, sugar pink and baby blue, with the words, "Je t'aime" across it.

The feeling wasn't mutual, for as unique as ninety-year-old Louise may be, neither her work nor this show were quite my cup of tea.

Louise Bourgeois, "le jour la nuit le jour" is on view at the Palais de Tokyo, Paris through 24 November 2002.

Patricia Boccadoro writes on visual arts and dance in Europe. She contributes to The Guardian, The Observer and Dancing Times and is a member of the editorial board of

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