Life and Work

Magdalena Abakanowicz © Burkard Maus

Magdalena Abakanowicz, born in 1930 in Falenty near Warsaw, Poland, is one of the most important sculptors of the 20th century.

After her studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw and a brief career as a painter, the artist turned to weaving techniques in the 1960s. She experimented with cords, ropes, sisal, sackcloth, and horsehair in order to create idiosyncratic organic three-dimensional objects, which she would then suspend in space. With these »Abakan«, Abakanowicz broke with the tradition of purely decorative, flat presentation and began attracting international attention, which led to solo exhibitions in important European and US-American museums from 1967 onwards.

The biomorphic textile sculptures increasingly developed into material entities with intestine-like interiors, such as in the group of »Heads« and the cycle »Embryology«, culminating in a direct engagement with the human body in the mid-1970s. With new, weatherproof materials, like bronze, iron, stone, and wood, Abakanowicz began to conquer new spaces. She created entire park landscapes, urban squares, and even vineyards, such as the installation from the cycle »Katarsis« in Santomato di Pistoia in Italy. Her forceful human or animal-like sculptures thematize, among other things, the recovery of the individual and simultaneously its dissolution into the crowd as well as the vulnerability of the human body. Despite the initial impression of a conformist and often threatening mass of headless figures in the works »Backs« and »Crowds«, each figure reveals an individual design upon closer inspection. The materials play an important role here. Abakanowicz lends her figures their uniqueness through the broken, moving structures of the material used, providing each with individual characteristics. This conscious selection of materials can is also impressively manifested in installations such as »War Games«. The wood’s structure, created through natural growth, reveals the painful physical scars of war. The bodies in these »War Games«, like »Anasta« and »Sokra«, are still alive despite their injuries. Here again, we can recognize Abakanowicz's question about man's place in nature. On the one hand, »War Games« shows the violence and destructiveness human beings are capable of and on the other hand our vulnerability, creative power, and our awareness of our responsibility to find a place in nature. Her works testify to humanity’s fateful experience over the course of the 20th century, an essential depth from which one cannot escape.

More than 100 solo exhibitions in Europe, North and South America, Japan, South Korea, and Australia testify to Magdalena Abakanowicz's great esteem as a world-renowned artist of our time. Her major works are represented in the collections of numerous international museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Jardin du Palais Royal in Paris, and the Tate Gallery of Modern Art in London. Many of her sculptures have been permanently installed in public space, such as the 7 Wheels of Limestone (Negev) in the Sculpture Garden of the Israel Museum in Jerusalem; the bronze dragon heads (Space of Dragon) in Olympia Park in Seoul; the 40 bronze seats (Space of Becalmed Beings) in Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art, Japan; the 112 standing, headless iron creatures (Unrecognized) in Park Cytadela in Poznan; and the sculpture group of 106 striders (Agora) in Grant Park in Chicago, to name but a few.

Magdalena Abakanowicz has received numerous national and international awards and has been a member of several academies of the arts.

The world-renowned artist Magdalena Abakanowicz died in Warsaw in 2017 at the age of 86.


1930 born in Falenty nearby Warsaw, PL
1950 – 1954 Studies at the Academy of Fine Arts, Warsaw, PL
1955 – 1959 monumental gouaches on cardboard and canvas
1960 – 1969 Development of an own weaving technique with three-dimensional, monumental, soft forms, called »Abakany«
1965 – 1990 Professorship at the State University of Fine Arts, Poznan, PL
1970 – 1979 so-called »alterations« arise, large cycles of figurative and non-figurative sculptures of burlap and synthetic resin; Publication of metaphorical texts that deal with the human condition, the structure of the brain, mythology and religion
1980 – 1989 Realizations in stone, ceramics and wood
1983 Visiting Professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, US
2017 died in Warsaw, PL

Prizes and Awards

2010 Trägerin des Großen Bundesverdienstkreuzes mit Stern der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, DE
2005 Lifetime Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Award des International Sculpture Center, New York, US
2000 Mitglied des Ordine Al Merito della Republica Italiana, IT
Ehrendoktor des Pratt Institute, New York, US
Mitglied des Ordens Pour le Merite für Wissenschaft und Künste, Berlin, DE
1999 Aufnahme in den Orden für Kunst und Literatur, Paris, FR
1998 Ehrendoktor der Wladyslaw Strzeminski Akademie der Schönen Künste, Lodz, PL
Mitglied der Sächsischen Akademie der Künste, Dresden, DE
1997 Leonardo da Vinci World Award of Arts, Mexico, MX
1996 Ehrenmitglied der American Academy of Arts and Letters, US
1994 Mitglied der Akademie der Bildenden Künste, Berlin, DE
1992 Sculpture Center, New York, US
1986 Ritter des Ordens für Kunst und Literatur, Frankreich, FR
1982 Alfred-Jurzykowski-Preis, New York, US
1980 Ritterkreuz des Ordens Polonia Restituta, PL
1979 Johann-Gottfried-von-Herder-Preis, Vienna, AT
1972 Ehrendoktorwürde des Royal College of Art, London, GB
Ehrendoktorwürde der Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, US
1965 Grand Prix der Biennale São Paulo, BR

Works (Selection)

Magdalena Abakanowicz, Armament II, 2007, © Beck & Eggeling
Magdalena Abakanowicz, Armament II, 2007, © Beck & Eggeling
Magdalena Abakanowicz, Arsenal 2, 2007, © Beck & Eggeling
Magdalena Abakanowicz, Arsenal 2, 2007, © Beck & Eggeling
Magdalena Abakanowicz, Cataract - Opaque Area Clouding Eye, 2002
Magdalena Abakanowicz, Cataract - Opaque Area Clouding Eye, 2002
Magdalena Abakanowicz, untitled (from the cycle 'Wind'), 1994
Magdalena Abakanowicz, untitled (from the cycle 'Wind'), 1994
Magdalena Abakanowicz, untitled (from the cycle 'Wind'), 2005
Magdalena Abakanowicz, Sitting Figure on Tall Base, 2001
Magdalena Abakanowicz, Armament I, 2007, © Beck & Eggeling
Magdalena Abakanowicz, Arsenal 4, 2007, © Beck & Eggeling
Magdalena Abakanowicz, Cataract - Opaque Area Clouding Eye, 2002

Solo exhibitions (selection)

2020 CZAS NASZ — UNSERE ZEIT — OUR TIME (Magdalena Abakanowicz – Dresden, Günther Uecker – Breslau), Albertinum, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, Dresden, DE
Magdalena Abakanowicz, Tate Modern, London
2019 Magdalena Abakanowicz Presence, Essence, Identity, The Museum of Art Timişoara, Baroque Palace, Timișoara, RO
Into the Space of Magdalena Abakanowicz. Textile and Sculpture, Museum of Decorative Arts and Design, Riga, LV
2018 Magdalena Abakanowicz. Presence, Essence, Identity, Mia Art Gallery, Breslau, PL
Magdalena Abakanowicz - Crowd IV, Marlborough Gallery, New York, US
2017 Effigies of Life: A Tribute To Magdalena Abakanowicz, Dworcowa Gallery, Breslau, PL
2016 Magdalena Abakanowicz, Galeria Marlborough Barcelona, Barcelona, ES
Magdalena Abakanowicz: Mutations, Richard Gray Gallery, Chicago, US
2015 Magdalena Abakanowicz. In Honour of her 85th Birthday, Beck & Eggeling International Fine Art, Dusseldorf, DE
Magdalena Abakanowicz: Crowd and Individual, Fondazione Giorgio Cini, Venice, IT
2013 Magdalena Abakanowicz: A Survery 1987–2009, Marlborough Gallery, New York, US
2011 Magdalena Abakanowicz: Life and work, The Olomouc Museum of Art, Olomouc, CZ
2010 Magdalena Abakanowicz: Recent Sculpture, Marlborough Chelsea, New York
Abakanowicz. In Warschau at last!, Königliche Schlossgarten, Warsaw, PL
Abakanowicz, Nationalmuseum Krakau, Cracow, PL
Magdalena Abakanowicz, Van Every/Smith Galleries, Davidson
2009 Magdalena Abakanowicz, Galerie Scheffel, Bad Homburg, DE
Space to Experience, Fondazione Arnaldo Pomodoro, Milan, IT
2008 Magdalena Abakanowicz, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid, ES
Magdalena Abakanowicz, Instituto Valenciano de Arte Moderno (IVAM), Valencia, ES
Space to Experience, Beck & Eggeling International Fine Art, Dusseldorf, DE
Magdalena Abakanowicz. space to experience, Stiftung Museum Kunstpalast, Dusseldorf, DE
2007 Sculptures et Dessins, Galerie Patrice Trigano, Paris, FR
2006 Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park, Grand Rapids, Michigan
Sculptures et Dessins, Marlborough Monaco, Monte-Carlo, MC
2005 Museum of Art, Fort Lauderdale, Florida
La Foule V, Galerie Saint-Séverin, Paris, FR
Stadtkirche Darmstadt, Darmstadt, DE
Marlborough Gallery, New York
2004 Hurma, Chapelle Saint-Louis de la Salpêtrière, Paris, FR
Espace d'Art Contemporain André-Malraux, Colmar, FR
Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah, Georgia
Taguchi Fine Art, Tokyo, JP
Museum Franz Gertsch, Burgdorf, DE
2003 Museo di Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Trento, Rovereto, IT
Dancing Figures, Marlborough Fine Art, London, GB
Magdalena Abakanowicz, Beck & Eggeling International Fine Art, Dusseldorf, DE
2001 Grant Selwyn Fine Art, Los Angeles
Abakanowicz, Three Rivers Arts Festival, Pittsburgh
Gerald Peters Gallery, Santa Fe
Kunst – Station Sankt Peter Köln, Cologne, DE
Pillsbury and Peters Fine Art, Dallas
The William Benton Museum of Art, Storrs
MacLaren Art Centre, Barrie, CA
Landesmuseum Schloss Gottorf, Gottorf, DE
Museum Beelden aan Zee, Haag, NL
Museum of Art, Lucerne, CH
Marlborough Gallery, New York
2000 Collezione Gori, Santomato di Pistoia, IT
Marlborough, New York
Galeria Kordegarda, Warsaw, PL
1999 Abakanowicz on the Roof, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Les Jardins du Palais Royal, Paris, FR
Basel Art Fair, Basel, CH
Marlborough Gallery, New York
1998 Starmach Gallery, Cracow, PL
1997 Marlborough Gallery, New York
Miami Art Museum, Miami
Display of the Hand like Trees, Doris Freedman Plaza, New York
1996 Galerie Marwan Hoss, Paris, FR
Oriel Mostyn Gallery, North Wales, GB
Charlottenburg Exhibition Hall, Copenhagen, DK
Kulturhuset Stockholm, Stockholm, SE
1995 Jardins de Ca n’Altimira, Barcelona, ES
Centre of Polish Sculpture, Oronsko, PL
Ujazdowski Castle, The Centre for Contemporary Art, Warsaw, PL
Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield, GB
1994 Galeria Kordegarda, Warsaw, PL
Galería de arte Marlborough, Madrid, ES
Fundació Pilar i Joan Miró a Mallorca, Palma de Mallorca, ES
1993 Recent Sculpture, Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design, Rhode Island
1992 Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City
1991 Retrospektive, Sezon Museum of Art, Tokyo, JP
1989 Städtische Galerie im Städtischen Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt/Main, DE
1986 Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond
1983 Magdalena Abakanowicz, Musée d’Art Contemporain de Montréal, Montréal, CA
1982 Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris, FR
1977 Organic Structures, Malmö Konsthall, Malmö, SE
1976 Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, AU
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, AU
1975 Abakanowicz – Organic Structures and Human Forms, Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, GB
1974 Abakanowicz, Muzeum Sztuki, Łódź, PL
1972 Textile Strukturen und Konstruktionen – Environments, Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen, Dusseldorf, DE
1970 Nationalmuseum Stockholm, Stockholm, SE
1969 Stedelijk Museum, Arnhem, NL
Kunsthalle Mannheim, Mannheim, DE
1968 Stedelijk van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, NL
Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem, NL
Museum Groningen, Groningen, NL
Stedelijk Museum, Arnhem, NL
Schiedam Helmhaus, Zurich, CH
1965 Magdalena Abakanowicz, Zacheta Gallery, Warsaw, PL
1962 Tapisseries, Galerie Dautzenberg, Paris, FR
1960 Wystawa prac Magdaleny Abakanowicz – Kosmowskiej, Kordegarda, Warsaw, PL

Group exhibitions (selection)

2020 Taking a Thread for a Walk, Museum of Modern Art, MOMA, New York, US
Works from the 1980s / Conceptual Photography, Marlborough Gallery, New York, US
2019 Im kleinen Format, Galerie Scheffel, Bad Homburg, DE
Atlas. A Cartography of Donation, Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts, MCBA, Lausanne, CH
My name is red, PGS - Państwowa Galeria Sztuki, Sopot, PL
2014 Skulpturen-Triennale Bingen, Bingen am Rhein, DE
2011 Art on a Lake, Museum of Fine Arts, Ungarn, HU
Sleight of Hand, Denver Art Museum, Denver, US
Picasso to Koons – The Artist as Jeweler, Museum of Arts and Design, New York, US
The Power of Fantasy, Bozar Centre for Fine Arts, Brussels, BE
2009 Im kleinen Format, Galerie Scheffel, Bad Homburg, DE
Rites of Spring, LongHouse Reserve, East Hampton, US
La escultura en la Colección del IVAM, Zentrum für zeitgenössische Kunst, Warsaw, PL
elles@centrepompidou, Centre Pompidou, Paris, FR
2008 Origins, Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art, Peekskill, US
Skulptur!, Beck & Eggeling International Fine Art, Dusseldorf, DE
Works on Paper, Donopoulos Gallery, Thessaloniki, GR
Summer Show, Marlborough Gallery, New York, US
2007 Blickachsen 6 – Skulpturen im Kurpark Bad Homburg, Galerie Scheffel in Zusammenarbeit mit dem Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Bad Homburg, DE
Femme y es-tu? ARTSENAT, Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris, FR
2006 Sculpture, Marlborough Gallery, New York, US
2005 Blickachsen 5, Fondation Beyeler in Riehen, Basel, CH
Salamanca ciudad de la escultura, Salamanca, ES
Summer Show, Marlborough Gallery, New York, US
Summer Installation, Taguchi Fine Art, Tokyo, JP
Sculptures Monumentales à Saint-Tropez, Saint-Tropez, FR
Vancouver Sculpture Biennale: Open Spaces, Vancouver Biennale, Vancouver, CA
2004 Monocromos: de Malevich al presente, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid, ES
2003 me&more, Kunstmuseum Luzern, Lucerne, CH
From Picasso to Warhol: master prints 1964-2003, The Center for Contemporary Art, Warsaw, PL
2002 La Parade des Animaux, Monte-Carlo, MC
Les Jeux dans l'Art du XXème siècle, Biarritz, FR
Los Juegos en el Arte del siglo XX, Saragossa, ES
OPEN2002 International Exhibition of Sculptures and Installations, Venice, IT
2001 Japan Europalia 2001, Musée d'Art Moderne et d'Art Contemporain, Liege, FR
Den Haag Sculptuur, Carnaval des Animaux, The Hague, NL
2000 L'autre moitié de l'Europe, Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume, Paris, FR
L' Homme qui Marche, Les Jardins du Palais Royale, Paris, FR
Verteidigung der Moderne – Positionen der Polnischen Kunst nach 1945, Museum Würth, Künzelsau, DE
1999 Eight Artists in an Archive, American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, New York, US
Art Cologne, Internationaler Kunstmarkt, Cologne, DE
1997 Grounds for Sculpture, Hamilton, New Jersey, US
Luxembourg Ville de la Sculpture, Luxembourg, LU
47. Biennale di Venezia, Venice, IT
A Century of Sculpture – The Nasher Collection, Guggenheim Museum, New York, US
Spoleto Festival, Charleston, South Carolina, US
Inauguration of the Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao, ES
Köln Skulptur #1, Skulpturenpark Köln, Cologne, DE
1996 Les Champs de la Sculpture, Paris, FR
Horizons, Sonje Museum of Contemporary Art, Seoul, KR
1995 46. Biennale di Venezia, Venice, IT
After Auschwitz, Royal Festival Hall, London
Unser Jahrhundert – Our Century, Museum Ludwig, Cologne, DE
After Hiroshima, Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art, Hiroshima, JP
1994 Europa: das Jahrhundert der Avantgarde in Mittel- und Osteuropa, Kunsthalle Bonn, Bonn, DE
Itinere – Camino e Caminantes, Centro Galego de Arte Contemporanea, Santiago de Compostela, ES



BE Highlights 2020

BE Highlights 2020

  • Artists: Magdalena Abakanowicz, Aljoscha, Herbert Beck, Bertozzi & Casoni, Joachim Brohm, Marc Chagall, Kwang Young Chun, Lucien Clergue, Gehard Demetz, Piero Dorazio, Gerhard Hoehme, Anselm Kiefer, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Heinz Mack, August Macke, Fausto Melotti, Giorgio Morandi, Edvard Munch, Emil Nolde, Heribert C. Ottersbach, Pablo Picasso, Fabrizio Plessi, Rudolf Polanszky, Chris Reinecke, Gerhard Richter, Norbert Tadeusz, Manolo Valdés
    Editor: Michael Beck, Ute Eggeling
    Text: Aljoscha, Michael Beck, Jil Campisi, Ute Eggeling, Andrea Knop, Andrea Krause, Kirsten Nordahl, Katja Ott, Heribert C. Ottersbach, Sebastian Schemann, Miriam Walgate
    Design: Antonia Eggeling
  • English, German
    Softcover, 25 x 21 cm
    120 pages, 92 illustrations
  • Beck & Eggeling Kunstverlag, 2020
    ISBN 978-3-94606324-7
  • 20 €
Order More
Magdalena Abakanowicz. Crowd and Individual

Magdalena Abakanowicz. Crowd and Individual

  • Artist: Magdalena Abakanowicz
    Editor: Ute Eggeling, Michael Beck
    Text: Luca Massimo Barbero, Künstlerzitate ausgewählt und gekürzt von Andrea Knop
    Design: Beck & Eggeling (Martina Löhle)
  • English
    Softcover, 24 x 28 cm
    236 pages, 209 illustrations
  • Beck & Eggeling Kunstverlag, 2015
    ISBN 978-3-93091999-4
  • 35 €
Order More
Further publications


Magdalena Abakanowicz. Crowd and Individual
Catalogue of Exhibitions and Permanent Installations
With a preface by Ute Eggeling & Michael Beck
and essay by Luca Massimo Barbero
Artist statements and reviews abriged and edited by Andrea Knop
Beck & Eggeling Kunstverlag, Düsseldorf 2015
Space to Experience
Beck & Eggeling Kunstverlag, Düsseldorf 2008
Vorwort: Horst Albach, Dirk Elbers, Beat Wismer, Text: Peter Busmann. Giannina Mura, Mariusz Hermansdorfer, Consuelo Císcar Casabán, Magdalena Abakanowicz
Tanzende und Schreitende
Beck & Eggeling Kunstverlag, Düsseldorf 2008
Vorwort: Dr. Ute Eggeling, Michael Beck
Text: Magdalena Abakanowicz, Ryszard Stanislawski


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