Magdalena Abakanowicz

Magdalena Abakanowicz


Artist Details

Birth Place
Falenty, Poland
Phonetic Spelling
mahg-dah-LEH-nah ah-bah-kah-NOH-veech
Architecture; Painting; Sculpture; Textiles and clothing
Places of Residence
Academy of Fine Arts, Warsaw, 1950–54
Retrospective Exhibitions

Magdalena Abakanowicz: Life and Work, The Olomouc Museum of Art, Olomouc, Czech Republic, 2011; 

Magdalena Abakanowicz, Museum of Fine Arts Budapest, Budapest, Hungary, 2005; 

Magdalena Abakanowicz: Memory, Silence, Life, Sezon Museum of Art, Tokyo, 1991; 

Abakanowicz: Retrospective Exhibition, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, 1982

NMWA Exhibitions

The New York Avenue Sculpture Project: Magdalena Abakanowicz, 2014–2015

WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution, 2007

Voices of Freedom: Polish Women Artists and The Avant-Garde, 1880–1990, 1992


About the Artist

Polish artist Magdalena Abakanowicz manipulated textiles like burlap into figurative compositions, referencing vulnerable human individuality in the modern world.

Abakanowicz was a pioneer of fiber-based sculpture and installation in the 1960s. She began making abstract fiber works in the 1950s, when her government was advocating social realism. Her earliest works were monumental hanging textiles, which she named “Abakans.” They function as both objects and spaces.

She turned to figurative textile works in the 1970s, creating the headless and fragmented human forms for which she is best known. She began receiving public commissions, which led her beyond textiles to materials such as bronze, wood, stone, and clay.

Abakanowicz’s art was affected by her experiences in Poland under Nazi and Soviet occupation during World War II and its aftermath. Although she drew inspiration from her autobiography, her sculptures possess an ambiguity that encourages multiple interpretations, speaking broadly to human experience.

Abakanowicz’s work has been featured in more than 40 solo exhibitions worldwide and honored with numerous awards, including the Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Sculpture Center in Hamilton, New Jersey, in 2005. 

National Museum of Women in the Arts