Louise Bourgeois sets record as spider sculpture sells for $32.8 million at auction

The giant work is more than three metres tall and five-and-a-half metres wide

Louise Bourgeois's 1996 steel sculpture Spider is displayed at Sotheby's. AP
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French-American artist Louise Bourgeois has achieved two records with the sale of her giant spider sculpture at Sotheby's.

The artwork, which sold for $32.8 million on Thursday, is now the artist’s most expensive piece at auction, beating a previous record for her work, another spider that sold for $32.1 million in 2019.

It is also the most expensive sculpture by a female artist ever sold at auction.

The sculpture – which is more than three metres tall and five-and-a-half metres wide – was finished by Bourgeoise in 1996 and is one of four monumental spiders to have appeared at auction.

Sotheby's did not identify the buyer. The seller, it said, was the Fundacao Itau – the cultural wing of a Brazilian bank – which acquired the work more than 25 years ago.

Bourgeois, who died in 2010 aged 98, was born in Paris but spent much of her adult life in New York City, where she became known for her famous installation art.

She was a prolific painter and printmaker but became best known for her large-scale sculptures, particularly of nimble, spindly spiders, which she said evoked memories of her mother, both as a sinister threat and an industrious repairer and weaver.

Bourgeois's monumental spiders have appeared in public places such as the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in Spain, the Tate Modern in London, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the National Gallery of Art in Washington.

The oldest book or manuscript sold at auction

Earlier in the week, a 1,100-year-old Hebrew Bible, one of the world's oldest surviving biblical manuscripts, sold for $38 million in New York, making it the most valuable book or manuscript ever sold at auction.

The Codex Sassoon sold for $38.1 million at auction. AP

The Codex Sassoon, a leather-bound, handwritten parchment volume containing a near-complete Hebrew Bible, was bought by former US ambassador to Romania Alfred Moses on behalf of the American Friends of ANU and donated to the ANU Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv, said Sotheby's.

The Codex Sassoon is believed to have been made sometime between 880 and 960. It got its name in 1929 when it was purchased by David Solomon Sassoon, a son of an Iraqi Jewish business magnate who filled his London home with a collection of Jewish manuscripts.

Agencies contributed to this report

Updated: May 19, 2023, 7:21 AM