US sculptor Louise Bourgeois dies aged 98

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French-born American sculptor Louise Bourgeois has died in New York, at the age of 98.

Based in New York since 1938, Bourgeois gained fame late in her long career and kept working to the end of her life.

Her giant spider sculptures have been exhibited around the world and earned her the nickname of Spiderwoman.

Her abstract explorations of themes such as birth, sexuality and death made her one of the world's most influential contemporary artists.

Bourgeois suffered a heart attack two days ago.

Although she had long been regarded by her contemporaries as one of the world's most important artists, it was not until her seventies that she began to attract a wider audience.

Her spider sculptures - some of which are three storeys high - have been exhibited around the world, including the Tate Modern in London.

In a statement, the gallery said: "We were deeply saddened to hear of the death of Louise Bourgeois this weekend. Always at the forefront of new developments in art, she pursued a wholly personal path and was powerfully inventive, working in dialogue with the major avant-garde movements of her time.

"Her death is a great loss."

Bourgeois' vast installation, I Do, I Undo, I Redo, was the first commission in The Unilever Series for Tate Modern.

Her sculpture of a giant spider, Maman, was part of the Unilever Series at the gallery which greeted the very first visitors in 2000.

The artist said her main inspiration came from her childhood in France, where her father had an affair with her governess, which her mother refused to acknowledge.

Four of her sculptures - including a 30-ft (nine-metre) tall spider, titled Maman - were among the first works to appear in the new Tate Modern in London 10 years ago.

She also used her own clothes as the basis for a series of bronzes.

Artist Richard Wentworth, from the Royal College of Art, called the sculptor "enormously significant".

He added: "She connected the intensely private act of being an artist with the intensely public act of developing a worldwide audience.

"To have worked constantly for so long and so publicly - is in a field of its own. There are very few female artists who make it to later life and it's very tough to be a woman artist or sculptor."

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