Magdalena Abakanowicz (Polish pronunciation: [maɡdaˈlɛna abakaˈnɔvit͡ʂ]; 20 June 1930 – 20 April 2017) was a Polish sculptor and fiber artist, known for her use of textiles as a sculptural medium and for outdoor installations. She worked as a professor of studio art at the University of Fine Arts in Poznań, Poland, from 1965 to 1990, and as a visiting professor at University of California, Los Angeles in 1984.
She was born to a noble landowning family in Falenty, near Warsaw, before the outbreak of World War II. Her formative years were marred by the Nazi occupation of Poland, during which her family became part of the Polish resistance. After the war, under the imposed communist rule, Abakanowicz attended the Academy of Fine Arts in Sopot and the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw between 1950 and 1954, navigating a conservative educational environment marked by the imposition of Soviet-dictated restrictive and propagandistic doctrine of Socialist Realism.
The Polish October and subsequent political and cultural thaw in 1956 marked a significant turning point in Abakanowicz's career. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Abakanowicz's work began to take on more structure and geometric form, influenced in part by Constructivism. Her one-person exhibit at the Kordegarda Gallery in Warsaw in 1960 signaled her emergence in the Polish textile and fiber design movement. She received first international recognition following her participation in the first Biennale Internationale de le Tapisserie in Lausanne, Switzerland, in 1962.
Abakanowicz's most celebrated works emerged in the 1960s with her creation of three-dimensional fiber works called Abakans. During the 1970s and 1980s, she transitioned to creating humanoid sculptures. These works reflected the anonymity and confusion of the individual amidst the human mass, a theme influenced by her life under a Communist regime. She is considered to be among Poland's most influential post-war artists, and some of her prominent international public artworks include Agora in Chicago and Birds of Knowledge of Good and Evil in Milwaukee.