Magdalena Abakanowicz (Polish, b.1930) is best known for her textile sculptures of biomorphic forms. At the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts she studied drawing and painting in the Socialist Realist style, as well as textile design, screen printing, and fiber design. Her early work includes a series of gouaches and watercolors on linen sheets, which depict imaginary plants and animals. After she graduated, the Polish government was less strict about the form and content of art, and artists were allowed to travel to Western cities. Abakanowicz was particularly influenced by the geometric structures of Constructivist art. Her series Abakans, begun in 1967, are giant sculptures, woven from a variety of fibers, that hang a few inches off the ground. During the 1970s and 1980, Abakanowicz made several series of anthropomorphic textile sculptures. Backs (1976–1980) was a series of 80 versions of the human trunk made from burlap and resin, and Embryology (1978–1980) consisted of approximately 800 round forms of various sizes, made from burlap, gauze, and hemp. These organic sculptures examine the role of individual creativity within the crowd. In the late 1980s and 1990s, Abakanowicz produced sculptures in bronze, wood, stone, and clay, including her Bronze Crowd (1990) and Puellae (1992) series. For the War Games series, begun in 1987, Abakanowicz stripped off the bark of trees that were abandoned by foresters near Warsaw, and remodeled each trunk with metal parts. This series represents her life-long interest in nature, dismemberment, and regeneration. Abakanowicz has received numerous awards, including the Grand Prix of the São Paulo Biennale (1965), and a Lifetime Achievement Award by the International Sculpture Center in New York (2005). Her work has been exhibited at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the Marlborough Gallery in New York, among other institutions. Her work is held in several public collections, including the Art Institute of Chicago and the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris. She lives and works in Warsaw.

Timeline

1930
Born in Falenty, Poland
1950–1954
Studied at the Academy of Fine Arts, Warsaw, Poland
1965
Grand Prix of São Paolo Biennale, São Paolo, Brazil
1979
Gottfried bon Herder Prize, Vienna, Austria
1982
Alfred Jurzykowski Prize, New York, NY
1993
Award for Distinction in Sculpture, Sculpture Center, New York, NY
1997
Leonardo da Vinci World Award of Arts, Mexico
1998
Commander Cross, Star of the Order of Polonia Restituta
1999
Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, Paris, France
2000
Visionaries Award, American Craft Museum, New York, NY
2000
Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree, Pratt Institute, New York, NY
2004
Awarded the Commandeur de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres
2005
Recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award bestowed by the International Sculpture Center, New York, NY
2005
Award granted by the Polish Ministry of Culture

Exhibitions

2009
Kulturzentrum Englische Kirche, Bad Homburg, Germany
2009
Galerie Scheffel, Bad Homburg, Germany (solo)
2008
Magdalena Abakanowicz, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid, Spain (solo)
2007
Magdalena Abakanowicz, Taguchi Fine Art, Ltd. Tokyo, Japan (solo)
2007
Magdalena Abakanowicz: Sculptures et Dessins, Marlborough Monaco, Monte-Carlo, Monaco (solo)
2007
Wit and Whimsy, Marlborough Gallery, New York, NY
2007
Wack ! Art and the Feminist Revolution, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA
2006
Sculpture, Marlborough Gallery, New York, NY
2005
Salamanca ciudad de la escultura, Salamanca, Spain
2005
Space to Experience: The Sculpture of Magdalena Abakanowicz, Museum of Art, Fort Lauderdale, FL (solo)
2005
La Foule V, Galerie Saint-Séverin, Paris, France (solo)
2005
Works on Paper, Marlborough Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
2004–2005
Magdalena Abakanowicz: Backward Seated Figures, Katonah Museum of Art, Katonah, New York, NY (solo)
2004
Mutation and Crystallization, Pei Ling Chan Gallery, Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah, GA (solo)
2004
Monocromos de Malevich al presente. Museo Nacioal Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid, Spain
2003
Skin: Contemporary Views of the Body, Jacksonville Museum of Modern Art, Jacksonville, FL
2003
Dancing Figures, Marlborough Fine Art, London, England (solo)
2002
Museum Narodowe, Poznan, Poland (solo)
2002
La Parade des Animaux, Festival International de Sculpture de Monte-Carlo, Monte-Carlo, Monaco
2001
In Between - Art from Poland, Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago, IL
2001
Space to Experience, Three Rivers Arts Festival, Point State Park, Pittsburgh, PA (solo)
2000
Working Process, Guiliano Gori Collection, Spazi d’Arte, Santomato di Pistoia, Italy (solo)
2000
L’Homme qui Marche, Les Jardins du Palais Royale, Paris, France
1999
To the Rescue, Eight Artists in an Archive, American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, New York, NY
1999
Abakanowicz on the Roof, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY (solo)
1998
Starmach Gallery, Kraków, Poland (solo)
1997
Summer 1997 Exhibition, Grounds for Sculpture, Hamilton, NJ
1996
Les Champs de la Sculpture, Paris, France
1996
Oeuvres récentes, Galerie Marwan Hoss, Paris, France (solo)
1995
Esposizione Internazionale d'Arte, La Biennale di Venezia, Venice, Italy After Auschwitz, Royal Festival Hall, London, England
1995
Els Jardins de Can Altamira, Barcelona, Spain (solo)
1994
Galeria Kordegarda, Warsaw, Poland; traveled to Muzeum Sztuki, Lódz, Poland (solo)
1994
Europa, Europa, Kunsthalle, Bonn, Germany
1993
The Fujisankei Biennale, International Exhibition for Contemporary Sculpture, Japan
1993
Biuro Wystaw Artystycznych, Krakow, Poland (solo)
1992
…Reperti…Environment through the Eyes of 18 of the Worlds Major Artists, Museo Nacional de Belas Artes, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
1991
Retrospective exhibition, Sezon Museum of Art, Tokyo, Japan (solo)
1988
Olympiad of Art, Olympic Sculpture Park, Seoul, South Korea

Public Collections

The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France
Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, MI
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC
Los Angeles County Museum, Los Angeles, CA
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid, Spain
National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO