'Walking Figures' by Polish sculptor now in collection of Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

 Photo ©MMFA, Denis Farley

Three sculptures by the Polish artist Magdalena Abakanowicz (1930-2017), Walking Figures, are now in the collection of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA). They were donated by art lovers Marcel and Caroline Elefant, and now "stride along" the Path of Peace in the Michal and Renata Hornstein Pavilion for Peace. The pavilion is located on the Level 3 terrace, now named for Marcel and Caroline Elefant. This is the first acquisition of the Polish artist's work by a Canadian museum. 

The three silhouettes of Walking Figures symbolize democracy and one of its tenets, freedom of individual expression. They were produced between 2004 and 2006 at the Śrem foundry near Poznan, Poland under the direction of Magdalena Abakanowicz, who was 76 at the time. Each figure is different, having been designed as a single work. The trio were taken from a group of 16 figures, a special commission for the Vancouver Sculpture Biennale (2005-2007).

©Photo Sebastien Roy
The installation of the three sculptures on the terrace was a technical feat. Each "walker," whose individual weight is nearly a ton, was anchored in preparation to be lifted 17 meters (55 feet) in the air with a crane. Once hoisted to the rooftop, a half-dozen workers built a system of pulleys to fasten each sculpture to the others and to make a metal base. 

©Photo Sebastien Roy
Often censored in the past, Abakanowicz created the headless, asexual humanoid figures to evoke a vision of people queuing for hours to obtain food, to survive. As described by Nathalie Bondil, MMFA's Director General and Chief Curator: "With both legs firmly planted on the urban ground, they follow in the footsteps of ancient Greek sculptures, the kouri, as well as The Walking Man -- the work of Rodin and Giacometti. Each of these monumental figures has its own expressionist texture, resembling wrinkled skin or tree bark. The choice of the raw material -- corroded cast iron -- evokes the fragile human condition as its telluric force." View a video: Installation of Walking Figures.

Photo @MMFA, Denis Farley

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