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Transmission: Tuesday, 13th November 2007

Louise Bourgeois, Spiderwoman

Her art has shocked, amused and inspired and, despite turning 96 this year, Louise Bourgeois continues to make work today. Alan Yentob meets the artist to discuss her career and observe the 'Sunday salon' where she passes on advice to young hopefuls.

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Louise Bourgeois, Spiderwoman 

Episode Guide: Louise Bourgeois, Spiderwoman

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Posted: Monday, 12th November 2007

When Tate Modern opened in the year 2000, an artist who is internationally acclaimed, but still unknown to many had her first show at the gallery.

She made a huge impact with her giant spider, which she calls Maman, mother. Now Tate Modern is hosting a major retrospective of the artist. Her work which is full of fear, rage, wit and desire encapsulates the avant garde art of the 20th century. Always a maverick, close to every movement but a member of none, her art has moved the century on. This tiny woman, nearly a century old, is the last of the giants and she's still at work today. She draws so much from personal experience and emotions that her work appeals to people outside the confines of the 'modern art' elite.

Louise Bourgeois was born in France before the First World War, left just before the Second, and came of age as an artist in America. She will be 96 this Christmas. Memories of a disturbed childhood have produced fantastic and disturbing sculptures - giant spiders, prison-like 'cells' and poured plastic body parts. As a girl she restored old tapestries for the family firm. In the 1930s she worked in Paris with Fernand Leger and knew Surrealists like Breton and Duchamp. In New York in the 40s and 50s she emerged as an artist in her own right, bringing dread, desire, sex and the psyche into her work. During the 60s and 70s she staged 'happenings' and joined the early women's movement. Long a respected underground artist, in the 1980s, when she was aged over 70, she broke through into the mainstream. Her works have circled the globe ever since. Yet her own world becomes closer and even more intensely personal as she gets older.

Alan Yentob visits a Sunday salon at her home in New York where young artists queue up to receive her often fiery reactions to their work. With Louise, her close friends and her son, he sits round her kitchen table looking through the drawings she made the night before – musings on motherhood, birth and her own coming death. This is an intimate, rare access to her private world. He also talks with Tracey Emin, Antony Gormley, Stella Vine and others who've been influenced by this intense and witty artist.

Louise Bourgeois, BBC ONE, 22.35 Tuesday 13th November 2007

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