When Louise Bourgeois first moved into her Chelsea townhouse in 1961, her name was virtually unknown in the art world. Though she sculpted and drew every day since she moved to New York from Paris in 1938, it wasn’t until 1980–when she was 69–that her drawings first appeared in a gallery. The exhibit was a success and helped to give rise to her career as professional artist. Two years after her gallery debut, the Museum of Modern Art held a retrospective exhibit of her work, which marked her place in the international art scene. “She was already 70, yet things were just beginning,” said Jerry Gorovoy, Bourgeois’ longtime assistant and friend.
At her West 20th Street home, the artist famously held weekly Sunday afternoon salons where she invited major artists like photographer Nan Goldin and art students alike to exhibit their work while she gave sharp feedback. The salons, Gorovoy said, became like group therapy. Bourgeois wanted to know everything about each of the artists and their lives.
Bourgeois is most famously known for her colossal Spider sculptures, which evoke the bitterness and betrayal she felt as a child as a result of her father’s affair with her tutor. These sculptures made Bourgeois the highest paid woman artist at the time of their auctions at Christie’s in 2006, 2008, and 2011.
The building that served as both Bourgeois’ home and studio dates back to the 1850s and is now part of the Chelsea Historic District.