“There is a lot of interest among people who just like her work,” Harlan said of collectors who have purchased Bourgeois prints. “I don’t think they’re always print collectors per se. I think they were just interested in their work and wanted to own something by her.…It’s really generated by how well known she became. She became a very famous person, beyond the art world.”
For an artist whose career was defined by experimentation, it’s only natural that emphasizing Bourgeois’s expansive practice was the key to unlocking her market. With exhibitions such as 2010’s “Louise Bourgeois: The Fabric Works” at Hauser & Wirth in London or 2018’s “The Red Sky,” which focused on late-era works on paper, Bourgeois’s wide-ranging artistry could be understood on its own terms, which, according to Payot, was essential. Though she is now seen as an artist “in her own cosmos,” as he described it, turning her singular individuality from a hurdle into an advantage took concerted effort, including years of highly specified exhibitions, catalogs, and secondary market support. Now, Bourgeois’s market looks to be as monumental as ever, particularly as collectors, curators, and institutions seek to correct male-centric canons.
“There are collectors who are now prioritizing work by women artists; there are collectors interested in the work about bodies, gender, the female experience,” Webb said. “But above all, Bourgeois’s work is about life. Any collector who is drawn to her cannot deny this aspect. Bourgeois asks us: What is the human experience? Art historical categorizations can follow—I am sure Bourgeois would agree!”