The Swiss Fine Art Sale

The Swiss Fine Art Sale

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 27. Standing figure IV.

Magdalena Abakanowicz

Standing figure IV

Lot Closed

December 14, 02:24 PM GMT


30,000 - 40,000 CHF

Lot Details


Magdalena Abakanowicz

1930 - 2017

Standing figure IV

Burlap, resin with sand

circa 160 x 50 x 28 cm (sculpture); 185 x 73.5 x 60.5 cm (with stand)

Executed in 1983

This work will be included in the forthcoming Catalogue Raisonné of Magdalena Abakanowicz.

Galerie Alice Pauli, Lausanne
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1985

Magdalena Abakanowicz was born in 1930 and spent her early years on the family’s estate about 200 miles east of Warsaw. There, she often played in the nearby forest, an experience that later influenced the materials she uses in her work. (...)

[The artist] graduated the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw in 1955. Post-war Poland was part of the Soviet bloc and had a Communist government. Social Realism was the style taught in art schools during this era and initially Abakanowicz experimented with textiles and weaving in order to avoid it. Social Realism demanded images of smiling workers and a perfected society and although Abakanowicz disliked the style, she was ultimately required to adopt it in order to obtain a degree and enter the Polish Artists Union—a step required of all professional sculptors. (...)

In the 1970s, Abakanowicz began working with new materials, including burlap, string, and cotton gauze. In 1974, she began to form figures by dipping burlap and string into resin, which she then pressed into a plaster mold. Sometimes she took a cast from the body of a friend for these forms. (...)

The artist’s figures are mostly androgynous, with their sexual characteristics de-emphasized. The artist wants the viewer to focus on the humanity of the figures rather than their gender. At the same time, the fragmentary nature of the figures is important, perhaps a reflection of the time she spent helping in the hospital during World War II and her memories of the attack on her mother. A distinguishing feature of all of the burlap casts is the wrinkled skin and the implication of backbones, musculature and veins. The bodies, or body parts, more accurately, are intended to be seen in the round as the hollow interior is as much a part of the piece as the molded exterior. Space is as significant as mass in these works.

Abakanowicz draws on her personal history, but her sculptures possess an ambiguity that encourages multiple interpretations that speak broadly to human experience. [Standing figure IV] alludes to the brutality of war and the totalitarian state. The body is a husk without arms (...) or a head. It is an expression of suffering, both mournful and disturbing.

Extracts from an essay by Dr. Mary Kinnecome