Magdalena Abakanowicz (Polish, 1930 – 2017) was a sculptor whose 50-plus year career and distinct body of work have made her one of the most influential sculptors of the Post War period. Her powerful portrayal of the figure explores the human condition, the relationship between man and nature, and social and political histories pertaining to her experience in Soviet-occupied Poland.
Her earliest mature works—monumental, soft textile sculptures called Abakans that she completed when she was in her early thirties—won the artist international recognition in an era when very few Polish citizens were permitted to travel abroad. Since that time, Abakanowicz has become best known for her unique treatment of the human figure, often headless and modeled in found burlap or cast in bronze, representing our capacity to follow a leader or movement blindly, without thought. At the same time, she made each form by hand, emphasizing the individuality that remains, even in the crowd.
Abakanowicz studied at the Academy of Fine Arts, Warsaw from 1950 – 1954. Her work can be found in public collections internationally including the Art Institute of Chicago; the Australian National Gallery of Art, Canberra; the Center for Contemporary Art, Warsaw; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; the Israel Museum, Jerusalem; the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, Missouri; the Ludwig Museum, Cologne; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Seoul, South Korea; the Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas; the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; the Storm King Art Center, Mountainville, New York; the Sezon Museum of Art, Tokyo and many others.