NEW YORK — French-American contemporary artist Louise Bourgeois, known for her series of giant metal spiders, died Monday in New York at the age of 98, a spokeswoman said.
"I am very sad to confirm that Louise passed away this morning at Beth Israel Hospital after suffering a heart attack on Saturday night," said Wendy Williams, managing director of the Louise Bourgeois Studio.
Among her most famous pieces are a series of giant spiders presented as symbols of the mother, entitled "Maman," with one standing more than 30 feet (nine meters) high outside the National Gallery of Canada.
"The Destruction of the father," a 1974 installation, depicts her traumatic relationship with her father.
Bourgeois, inspired at the beginning of her career by Max Ernst and Constantin Brancusi, has never classed herself into a particular artistic grouping, preferring instead to pursue her own personal brand of art.
"All my inspiration comes from my childhood, from my education, from France at a certain moment in my life," the artist once said.
The news came as an Italian foundation was preparing an exhibition of her work to open in Venice on Friday featuring little-known works in cloth as well as sketches from between 2002 and 2008.
She had been actively involved in the preparations until two days ago, said foundation president Alfredo Bianchini.
The show at the foundation from June 5 to September 19 also features collages and other assembled works dating from the 1960s created from Bourgeois' own clothes to tell "intimate and symbolic" stories.
The artist would "continue to live through her work", Bianchini said, paying homage to her "great energy" and creative capacity.
Some of Bourgeois' works have fetched over a million dollars at auctions in recent years.
Born in Paris on December 25, 1911, Bourgeois moved to the United States in 1938 where she produced the bulk of her emotionally powerful and provocative art which explored the traumas of her childhood and sexuality.
Her parents owned a studio that restored tapestries. She had a troubled relationship with her father, never forgiving him for his infidelity to her mother.
Bourgeois studied art in Paris and in 1938 married American art historian Robert Goldwater and left for New York.
She became a US citizen in 1951 and had three children before being widowed in 1973.
She is survived by her two sons Alain and Jean-Louis. Her third son Michel died in 1990.
Conceptual artist Jenny Holzer said she "orbited Bourgeois" and that "my artist friends and I are crying today."
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