It was in the 1970s, after the deaths of her husband and father, that she became a successful artist. She received major International success in the 1990s, representing the United States at the Venice Biennale in 1993, and taking part in the Melbourne International Biennial in 1999. Also in 1999, Bourgeois was the first artist commissioned to fill the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern in London.
She is best known for her cells and spiders. She speaks of her art in symbolic terms, and the main theme is relationships, especially considering an organism in relation to its environment. Bourgeois conveys emotions of resentment, betrayal and jealousy, but with playful tone. Her sculpture media includes wood, stone, rubber, metal, and appropriately, fabric. Some of her works contain erotic images, with a motif of cumuls, which she named the round figures because they reminded her of cumulus clouds. Her most famous works are the spider structures, titled Maman, from the last fifteen years. Maman now stands outside the Tate Modern in London.