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Alina Szapocznikow, the radical sculptor who put lips on ashtrays and table lamps

2 min read  · 09 Jun 2023

Alina Szapocznikow Cendrier de célibataire I (The Bachelor’s Ashtray I) (1972) © ADAGP, Paris.Courtesy the Estate of Alina Szapocznikow

Alina Szapocznikow is on the HENI News radar as the late Polish artist’s strange sculptures play starring roles in prestigious museum shows and at auction.

Alina Szapocznikow's HENI Score—a unique artist sentiment—rose by an impressive 153% after a typically surreal portrait sold for $907,200 at Christie's, more than four and a half times its high estimate.

Titled Portret Wielokrotny (Dwukrotny) (Multiple Portrait (Double)) (1967), the granite and colored polyester resin sculpture is a late work, dating from when the artist was creating some of her most radical pieces, incorporating casts of body parts and other objects.

Smaller works have been offered for between $50,000 and $750,000 in the past two years on the primary market.

The Paris-based, Polish artist is best known for transforming parts of the female body into uncanny objects, such as cushions resembling bellies, lip-lamps and a half of a woman’s head as an ashtray. She also added pieces of photographs, clothing, and even car parts into some of her strange sculptures, which she referred to as "awkward" objects.

Szapocznikow’s works were neglected and overlooked outside of Poland after her untimely death in 1973, aged 47. Now, Szapocznikow’s sculptures are in-demand for shows at major museums and among collectors.

The late artist’s inclusion in the prestigious documenta exhibition in Kassel, Germany, in 2007, was a turning point in the re-evaluation of Szapocznikow’s pioneering work, leading to solo museum shows, including at MoMA in New York in 2012.

The market for her work was boosted in 2018 when Hauser & Wirth announced its worldwide representation of the artist’s estate in collaboration with Piotr Stanislawski, the artist’s son, and Galerie Loevenbruck, Paris.

Hauser & Wirth and Loevenbruck have presented her works at major art fairs including editions of Art Basel, Frieze and FIAC, Paris.

Alina Szapocznikow, Sculpture-Lamp (1970) © ADAGP, Paris.Courtesy the Estate of Alina Szapocznikow

Szapocznikow’s work is currently included in “Avant l’orage” at the Pinault Collection, Bourse de Commerce. In 2022, they featured in “Future Bodies from a Recent Past—Sculpture, Technology, and the Body Since the 1950s” at the Museum Brandhorst, Munich.

Born in 1926 to Polish-Jewish parents, Szapocznikow was lucky to survive the Holocaust as a young girl. The experiences played a significant role in shaping her emotionally-charged sculpture, which developed from a classical style to a unique combination of late Surrealism and Pop art.

The artist, who spent much of her adult life in Paris, was a friend of the New York-based French artist Louis Bourgeois. Bourgeois always kept a pair of Szapocznikow’s lip-lamps in her bedroom.

To get a deeper understanding of Alina Szapocznikow’s career visit her HENI Dashboard; a unique graphical data tool illustrating an artist’s auction sales, shows, profiles, mentions and their HENI Score. You can search for any one of the 100,000 Artist Dashboards to quickly appreciate their trajectory as well as sharing via email, text and WhatsApp.


Alina Szapocznikow