The case of Magdalena Abakanowicz

Main: Abakan Red - one of 26 large-scale works by Magdalena Abakanowicz called “Abakans”, presented at the "Every Tangle of Thread and Rope" exhibition at the Tate Modern in London. Photo. PAP/PA, Aaron Chown

One day she went to bed and lost her desire for any activity. She still accepted a group of loved ones, but otherwise she sank into her own thoughts or memories. I can guess why: she couldn't understand why all the obstacles were suddenly placed against her. Moreover - a wall of silence surrounded her as well.

In memoriam Magdalena Abakanowicz (June 20th , 1930 – April 20th, 2017)

First a general observation.

There are several reasons why buried fame is taking on a star-studded glow again: her rewritten biography full of dramatic (and additionally dramatised) events; the turn of fashion and the resulting search for trend pioneers; scandal uncovered years later…

But if someone lives properly, proves to be a model of moral conduct, and achieves the pinnacle of success on their own account, the return to the collective consciousness can be done only with money that commands respect.
In autumn 2021, a record on the Polish auction market was set by Magdalena Abakanowicz's sculptures. "Bambini", a group of 83 concrete children's figures, was auctioned for 13.6 million PLN.
She's back.


"Bambini" is a set of almost a hundred children's figures (repeated consistently from the 1980s to the late 1990s, made of various materials - more or less durable - starting from sackcloth, through ceramics, going towards bronze). When taking Abakanowicz’s art, they are usually without individual features, hands and heads. They stimulate your imagination only when presented in a group. However, it is worth taking a closer look at them. There are no two identical silhouettes. Yes, they all repeat the same gesture or pose: legs apart, back bent forward, stiff neck. One senses anxiety, humility and fear of going out of the rhythm, out of the imposed order, out of the regime. This is how young generations are trained - following the top-down guidelines.

The author used to say that one figure could have a decorative effect or symbolise an event. However, a collection of individuals, a crowd, a horde, put the viewer FACING IT. They bring anxiety - is it a murderous power, are these enslaved people subordinate to someone or people enslaved by the system?

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