Biography of Magdalena Abakanovicz (1930-VVVV)

Polish sculptor born in Falenty in 1930. Its multiple parts, which combine metals with textile techniques, presented one of the most personal ways of representation of the individual and the community in late 20th century sculpture.

Born into a family belonging to the high Polish aristocracy, Magdalena Abakanowicz began his studies at the College of fine arts in Sopot. It continued at the Academy of fine arts in Warsaw, where he/she graduated in 1955. At first, his artistic interest was decanted for drawing, painting and sculpture in its more traditional side. His works of youth among mid-to-late 1950s are executed in gouche on paper or canvas. At the beginning of the 1960s, Abakanowicz possessing knowledge of textile crafts, moved to the area of his creative work. The artist was engaged to collect waste (strings of port, Burlap, wood, etc.) with those who dedicated himself to composition experimentation. His first solo exhibition was held in 1960 in Warsaw Kordegarda Gallery. In 1962 he/she participated in the International Biennial of tapestry in Lausanne (Switzerland), which was the first of its exhibitions outside Poland and that internationally released his revolutionary work, which by the use of natural materials and waste was ahead to movements such as the end of the 1960's Italian Arte Povera. Two years later his work received general recognition in the Bienal of São Paulo, where the gold medal was awarded. That same year he/she began his teaching career as a teacher assistant at the Poznan School of art, where he/she is Professor since 1974. During this period he/she began to work in his series called Abakans. This series consists of large three-dimensional figures sewn by herself using poor materials. They became the use of textile elements in his work one of the pioneers of the known as fibre-art, whose main characteristic is the use of those in the making of the work.

During the 1970s the artist began with the series of sculptures known as alterations that expanded his repertoire both iconographic and materials. The works in this series to increase in size and the artist includes in its composition wool and resin. In 1974 he/she received the honorary doctorate by the Royal College of Art in London and in 1976 his work returned to be awarded at the biennial international of tapestry in Lausanne (Switzerland), which initiated the international recognition of his work. The Gottfried von Herder Prize, granted in Vienna, was added in 1979 to these awards. During the 1980s the work of Abakanowicz reached the characteristics that make it one of the most fascinating sculpture from the last quarter of the 20th century. Its repetitions of fragmented figures, torsos or legs, made in ochre and dark fabrics, and arranged in groups of 30 or more are one of the most vehement reflections on the status of the individual in the current sculpture. At the same time, the artist expanded more and more materials subjected to experimentation: bronze, wood, stone, steel and combinations of these, but used in the service of his particular iconography, which always gravitates around the neofigurativa representation of the subject. The work of these years was exhibited in Italy, Israel, Korea, Germany and the United States, presented as spaces of experience. He/She participated in the contest of architectural projects for the expansion of the Great Axis at the invitation of the municipal authorities of Paris. His proposal, tree architecture, was based on an ecological conception of the urban system and included vertical gardens alongside the buildings. That year he/she presented his work multitude of bronze that the artist had 36 bronze figures grouped together. In 1992 and 1993 he/she worked in the series of war games and hands as trees in which used bronze and steel.

It carried out between 1994 and 1997, for Japanese dance group Asbestos numerous choreographies inspired by his sculptures, which approached the field of performance. Deeds Hurma, composed by a group of 150 figures of children, and behind him, one of his best-known installations composed of 60 adults figures date from this period. He/She also did several works in bronze, great metaphorical content representing heads and animals.

In 1996 he/she was elected an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and letters, and in 1997 received the honorary doctorate from the Academy of fine arts in Lodz (Poland). In addition to these awards the prize Leonardo da Vinci (2000) and their appointments as doctor honoris cause by the Pratt Institute in New York (2000) and officer of the order of Arts and letters in Paris (1999).

Magdalena Abakanowicz lives and works currently in Warsaw.

Links on the Internet

page containing reproductions of his work, biography and essays (English).


VV.. Magdalena Abakanowicz: recent work. Madrid, Marlborough, 1994.

VV.. The art of the 20th century. Madrid, Editorial discussion, 1999.

GUASCH, A. M. The last 20th-century art. Madrid, Alianza Editorial, 2000.

-: The art of the 20th century in its exhibitions. 1945-1995 Barcelona, Ediciones el Serbal, 1997.

COLORADO CASTELLARY, a. (Editor). Art of the 20th century. Madrid, Editorial Complutense, 2001.