From the sculptures near Parliament Hill to the street art in the Glebe, there is so much art to see in Ottawa. There are many opportunities to see art simply by walking around, but one landmark in particular stands out: the Maman spider sculpture.
Created by Louise Bourgeois in 1999 in memory of her mother, and acquisitioned by the city in 2005, Maman has become a symbol of artistic excellence in the capital. Though spiders are usually perceived as terrifying creatures, Bourgeois saw them as intelligent and kind, like her mother.
“She feels sort of warm and welcoming,” said Megan Richardson, chief of education and public programs at the National Gallery of Canada, “she” being the mama spider. “Which is surprising, I think, at first. It certainly surprised me. A lot of people have issues with spiders and phobias and she doesn’t seem to insight that kind of response in people.”
This magnificently massive piece of art stands more than nine metres above its spectators and weighs 6,000 kg. Ottawa is fortunate to have one of only six bronze casts of the original sculpture. Some of her sister sculptures reside permanently at landmark museums, such as the Guggenheim in Spain, and the Mori Art Museum in Japan, while others rotate around the globe.
However, this sculpture is a landmark not only because of its size and celebrity, but because it is located outside of the National Gallery of Canada.
“The gallery is a world-class institution,” Richardson said. “It has the largest and most important collection of Canadian art in the world.”
With more than 40,000 works of art by some 6,000 artists, the gallery epitomizes art culture in the capital.
“It’s a federal institution and it belongs to Canadians, so it really is their national art collection,” said Richardson.
Whether you are walking around outside and looking up at Maman or taking a tour inside and enjoying the collections in the gallery, it is easy to see that this is a special place in our country and a landmark of art and creativity.
For more information on Maman, check out these links: