To main content

Unveiling of Maman in the Palace Park

Speech given by Her Majesty The Queen at the unveiling of Louise Bourgeois’ Maman in the Palace Park Monday 24 April 2023.

Here she is – at last!

Ladies and gentlemen,

Louise Bourgeois’ Maman has trekked and spun her way across the world on strong and slender legs, from New York in the west to Tokyo in the east, from Bilbao in the south to springtime in the Palace Park here in Oslo, surrounded by living fellow arachnids.

The Crown Princess and I are very pleased to be able to present this magnificent, world-renowned work to all of you who are here today, and for the park’s visitors to enjoy all through the coming summer months.

From the time the Crown Princess first came up with the idea to the implementation and opening today, we have encountered exciting challenges and been met with enthusiasm, creativity and good helpers in so many ways. In particular, I would like to thank the artist’s own Easton Foundation and the Foundation’s representative in Norway, Peder Lund.

I would also like to highlight the fruitful collaboration we have had with our friends at the National Museum, which will be opening an impressive exhibition of Louise Bourgeois’ art on 6 May. This remarkable artist will thus make her mark on the city throughout the summer, both in the beautiful exhibition halls of the National Museum and here in the park.

And here she is, with her monumental dimensions – 9 by 9 by 10 metres – reminding us of the intense fragility of life itself.

She is trying, like all of us, to find balance. She acts, defends and manages to safeguard what is beautiful, even in frightening and perhaps threatening situations. She embodies the contrasts and paradoxes of life.

Mother – mama – maman – is one of the most complex psychological motifs in our lives, and is thus also a popular, even inexhaustible, subject of art in every era. It invokes where we come from, what has moulded us, and what we pass on to our own children and those who come after us. It is up to the viewer to decide what the 20 marble eggs in the sac represent.

Many people find this work somewhat sinister. I can understand that. Maman is full of contrasts. She captures and protects at the same time, and communicates that there are many ways to show you care.

Maman can be seen as a cathedral that provides space for freedom and lofty thoughts. And yet, could she perhaps be trying just as much to silence thoughts, to limit self-realisation?

As we all know, life cannot be reduced to a formula. It cannot be described using simple definitions. Could Maman help us to reconcile the contrasts in our own lives?

Over the years I have been fortunate enough to see major exhibitions of Louise Bourgeois’ work in Paris and at the Tate Modern in London. So it was a tremendous honour in 2011 to be asked to open the memorial for the victims of witchcraft trials in Finnmark, a collaborative effort between Louise Bourgeois and Swiss architect Peter Zumthor. The memorial, located in Vardø, commemorates the 91 people, mainly women, who were burnt at the stake as witches in the 1600s.

The artwork takes a very distinctive approach to creating an idea of what these people must have gone through. It made a profound impression on me. It was confrontational. It was painful. It reminded me of how much women have suffered throughout history because of what they have seen, done, said and understood. One must keep one’s head down.

Sadly, we know that women all over the world are still facing these limitations today. I believe that everyone should be exposed to this artwork at some point. 

Louise Bourgeois worked invisibly, as she herself said, for 40 years, and found it a blessing to be able to work in peace, without being subjected to the critical gaze of the art world. When she did achieve widespread public recognition, it was as though something new was being presented, something that we had never seen before. And she has continued to enrich our lives, our urban spaces, our relationship with ourselves and the people around us – even after her death in 2010.

It is now a great pleasure for me to announce this one-work park exhibition for opened! I hope that many people will come here and explore Maman in their own ways.

Now, the Royal Norwegian Navy Band will play "To the spring" by Edvard Grieg before prof. and writer Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson will give her speech.

Thank you!


To share this on Twitter or Facebook:

Share on Twitter Share on Facebook