Louise Bourgeois

The Ainu Tree, 1999

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Explore Sydney Contemporary

Louise Bourgeois

(French-American, 1911-2010)

The Ainu Tree, 1999
signed with the artist’s initials and numbered AP23
five-colour lithograph on paper
image: 58.3 by 38.3 cm.
sheet: 74 by 51 cm.
This work is artist proof 23 from an edition of 100 plus 24 artist’s proofs, 1 B.A.T., 4 printers proofs and 1 trial proof. Published by SOLO Impression, New York. 

Solo Impression, New York

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Key Points

  • Louise Bourgeois is one of the world’s most influential contemporary artists
  • With an auction record of over USD 32 million, she is also one of the most expensive female artists
  • Bourgeois initially produced The Ainu Tree to help an impoverished Japanese tribe
  • The artist make the first version of this work as early as 1944, and revisited it more than five decades later
  • Another version of The Ainu Tree is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York

In Context

With a career that spans seven decades, Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010) is one of the most influential contemporary artists – and one of the few who has managed to stay relevant over such an extensive period of time. Born in France but based in New York for most of her life, she exhibited alongside the Abstract Expressionists in the 1940s and became an inspiration for a younger generation of female artists towards the end of the century.

Today she is widely regarded as as one of the key artists from the second half of the twentieth century. Her psychologically-charged oeuvre, which often dealt with the trauma that was inflicted by her father’s betrayal of her mother, opened up the visual arts as a form of dealing with traumatic experience. 

Louise Bourgeois working with her printing press at home, New York, 1995

Throughout her prolific oeuvre, trees were a recurring theme. In fact, the particular rendering of the tree with a thin straight stem, small crown and elaborate root structure first made its appearance as early as 1944. More than five decades later, Bourgeois returned to this imagery for The Ainu Tree, which she conceived to benefit an impoverished Japanese tribe, the Ainu. The lithographs were printed by her neighbour and long-time collaborator Judith Solodkin, whom Bourgeois admired for the intense reds and blues she was able to produce. 

In Australia, Louise Bourgeois’ work is represented in the collections of the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney, National Gallery of Australia in Canberra, National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne and the Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane. In 2012-13 the Heide Museum of Modern Art staged an exhibition dedicated to Louise Bourgeois’ late work.

Comparable works

Louise Bourgeois, The Ainu Tree, 1999, lithograph on paper, 74 by 51 cm. Ed. 100. 
Museum of Modern Art, New York
Louise Bourgeois, The song of the blacks and the blues, 1989-96, oil on paper, 54.6 by 243.8 cm. Ed. 40
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Louise Bourgeois, Untitled, 1944, oil on paper, 25 by 24.6 cm.
Easton Foundation, New York


Click to watch the MoMA video on Louise Bourgeois’ printmaking

The market

With an auction record of over USD 32 million, Louise Bourgeois is one of the most sought-after contemporary artists. Moreover, as a prolific artist there is a substantial depth of work in the market that makes it highly transactional. Another example from this edition sold at Bonhams New York in November 2021 for the equivalent of AUD 14,500.

Louise Bourgeois, The Ainu Tree, 1999, lithograph on paper, 74 by 51 cm. Ed. 100. Sold: USD 10,837 (AUD 14,500) (Bonhams, November 2021)
Louise Bourgeois, The Ainu Tree, 1999, lithograph on paper, 74 by 51 cm. Ed. 100. Sold: USD 6,950 (AUD 9,300) (Bonhams, June 2020)
Louise Bourgeois, The Ainu Tree, 1999, lithograph on paper, 74 by 51 cm. Ed. 100. Gallery price: USD 10,000 (AUD 13,400)
(Carolina Nitsch)


Selected solo exhibitions
2022 Hayward Gallery, London
2021 The Jewish Museum, New York
2020 Serralves Museum, Porto
2019 Voorlinden Museum, Wassenaar
2019 Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
2018 Long Museum, Shanghai
2018 Glenstone Museum, Potomac
2017 SFMoMA, San Francisco
2017 MoMA, New York
2016 Tate Modern, London
2016 Guggenheim, Bilbao
2015 New Mexico Museum of Art
2015 Garage Museum, Moscow
2013 Fondation Beyeler, Basel
2012 Heide Museum, Australia
2011 National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
2010 Museum of Cycladic Art, Greece
2010 Gemeentemuseum, The Hague
2009 Hirschhorn Museum, Washington
2008 Solomon R Guggenheim, New York
2004 Daros Collection, Zurich
2003 Louisiana Museum, Humlebaek
2003 Whitney Museum, New York
2000 National Museum of Art, South Korea
1999 Reina Sofia, Madrid
1998 Serpentine Gallery, London
1997 Yokohama Museum, Japan
1995 NGV, Melbourne
1993 Venice Biennale
1982 MoMA, New York

Selected collections
Albright-Knox Gallery, Buffalo
Arario Museum, Seoul
Baltimore Museum of Art
British Museum, London
Brooklyn Museum, New York
Albertina, Vienna
Guggenheim, New York
Guggenheim, Abu Dhabi
Guggenheim, Bilbao
Hakone Museum, Tokyo
Hirschhorn Museum, Washington
Jardin de Tuilleries, Paris
Kunstmuseum Basel
Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul
Metropolitan Museum, New York
Moderna Museum, Stockholm
Mori Art Museum, Tokyo
Museum Ludwig, Cologne
Museum of Modern Art, New York
Museum of Modern Art, Vienna
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Qatar Museums, Doha
Reina Sofia, Madrid
Tate Modern, London
Israel Museum, Jerusalem
State Hermitage, St. Petersburg
Uffizi Museum, Florence
Whitney Museum, New York

ILEANA at Explore Sydney Contemporary

Walead Beshty, Louise Bourgeois, Dorian Büchi, Michael Craig-Martin, Melissa Gordon, Richard Hamilton, Rachel Howard, Louise Lawler, Tony Lewis, Sol LeWitt, Tim Maguire, Takesada Matsutani, Edda Renouf, Bridget Riley, Peter Schuyff, Stansfield/Hooykaas, Wang Guangyi, Christopher Wool

Presented at Explore Sydney Contemporary (11-21 November 2021)

All artworks © the artist.