“Longings, disappointments, and fears teach me how to build their shapes. My imagination makes a choice.”
— Magdalena Abakanowicz
Magdalena Abakanowicz was born in 1930 in Falenty, Poland. She emerged as a young artist in a country devastated by the Second World War, bestowing her with a unique perspective that has unfurled through a distinct sculptural vocabulary including an innovative approach to materials and figurative forms. Robert Hughes in Time Magazine referred to Abakanowicz’s “dark vision of primal myth” and Barbara Rose, in her monograph, Magdalena Abakanowicz (Abrams, 1994), to the artist as “a shaman who receives and transmits messages in a visual language that is more universal than words.”
Abakanowicz has had over 150 solo exhibitions in Europe, North and South America, Japan, South Korea, and Australia. She has exhibited at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Jardins du Palais Royal in Paris, and the Muzeum Narodowe in Poznań. Most recently, she is the subject of a major retrospective at London’s Tate Modern called Every Tangle of Thread and Rope (through 2023). Previous museum solo exhibitions include the Palacio de Cristal, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, and Institut Valencià de Arte Modern (IVAM), Valencia, both in 2008, and the Fondazione Arnaldo Pomodoro, Milan, in 2009. Several works were exhibited in the Energy and Process wing at the Tate Modern for the duration of 2010, and her survey The Human Adventure was exhibited at the Akbank Art Center, Istanbul, in 2013.
Among numerous awards and distinctions, Abakanowicz received seven honorary doctorates from universities in Europe and the United States as well as the Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres from the French government. She was also awarded the prestigious International Sculpture Center’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005. In the past twenty years Abakanowicz has produced a number of site-specific sculpture installations that incorporate multiple figures or elements of monumental scale. Among these are Negev at the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, 1987; Space of Dragon, Olympic Park, Seoul, South Korea, 1985; Becalmed Beings, Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art, Japan, 1993; Sarcophagi in Glass Houses, Storm King Art Center, New Windsor, New York, 1994; Space of Unknown Growth, Europos Parkas, Lithuania, 1997-98; Unrecognized, Citadel Park, Poznań, Poland, 2002; Space of Stone, Grounds for Sculpture, Hamilton, New Jersey, 2003; and Agora, a sculptural group comprised of 106 unique cast-iron figures measuring over nine feet tall that has been permanently installed in Chicago’s Grant Park since 2006.