Standing over 30 feet high, Bourgeois’ Maman at the Guggenheim in Bilbao is a masterpiece that marries physical and psychological power. Impressive in its size, the large spidery sculpture is associated with the artist’s own mother, who worked repairing tapestries. We see the spider, protecting fiercely her sac of 26 marble eggs, provokes fear through her size, but vulnerability through the stilt-like legs, which could seemingly topple at any moment. The spider is a recurring theme in Bourgeois’ work, first featuring in drawings in 1947 and continuing throughout her career, including the 1996 sculpture Spider.

Photo: Rudy Mareel