Magdalena Abakanowicz

Sculptor and Weaver

Walking Figures, by Magdalena Abakanowicz, at the New York Armory Show, 2010. Getty Images / Spencer Platt

Dates: June 20, 1930 -

Occupation: Sculptor, weaver, educator

Known for: large abstract and figurative sculptures called abakans.

Magdalena Abakanowicz was born in Poland, near Warsaw, to a family that traced its heritage back to Genghis Khan. Her home life was disturbed by the occupation of Poland by Germany and then Russia. She stayed in Poland through the years of Communist rule and then through the changes under the Solidarity movement and afterwards.

Her sculpture often reflects the emotional heritage of her political environment.

Magdalena Abakanowicz studied at the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts, 1950-55. Honorary doctorates from the Royal College of Art in London and the Academy of Fine Arts in Lodz, Poland.

Magdalena Abakanowicz began working as a painter, as a weaver and as a sculptor working in the fiber arts, as a weaver, and moved to other media including clay, wood, and sacking. She is noted for groups of large figures which she has called "Abakans." Her work is in many major public museums.

Magdalena Abakanowicz taught at the State College of Arts in Poznan, 1979-1990, and she was appointed a professor in 1979. She has been a visiting professor in the US.

In the 1990s Magdalena Abakanowicz designed a model of an ecologically-oriented city. She has also choreographed dance.


  • Magdalena Abakanowicz by Harry N. Abrams (1994)
  • Magdalena Abakanowicz by Barbara Rose (1994)
  • The Figurative Sculpture of Magdalena Abakanowicz: Bodies, Environments, and Myths by Joanna Inglot (2004)


"Art does not solve problems but makes us aware of their existence. It opens our eyes to see and our brain to imagine."

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Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Magdalena Abakanowicz." ThoughtCo, Dec. 22, 2016, Lewis, Jone Johnson. (2016, December 22). Magdalena Abakanowicz. Retrieved from Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Magdalena Abakanowicz." ThoughtCo. (accessed November 17, 2017).