Bodys Isek Kingelez: City Dreams at The Museum of Modern Art, May 26, 2018 – January 1, 2019

“‘I am a designer, an architect, a sculptor, engineer, artist,’ said Bodys Isek Kingelez (1948–2015). In the late 1970s in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo), which was rapidly redefining itself following independence from Belgium, Kingelez began making intricately constructed sculptures of miniature buildings and cities. Eliding the boundaries between artistic categories,they embody his dreams for his country, his continent, and the world. These ‘extreme maquettes,’ as he called them, present models for a more harmonious society of the future and offer optimistic alternatives to his experience of city life in Kinshasa, where urban planning and infrastructure were often unable to keep pace with exponential growth and development. 

Kingelez’s vibrant, audacious sculptures were created from an incredible range of everyday materials and found objects—colored paper, commercial packaging, plastic, soda cans, and bottle caps—all meticulously transformed and arranged. While he didn’t travel outside of Zaire until 1989, Kingelez was deeply attuned to international affairs, and his work addressed health crises, shifting geopolitical alliances, and global locations, from Canada to Japan. Kinshasa’s layered architectural history was also a source of inspiration, and he referenced its colonial-era Art Deco buildings and the ambitious structures erected post-Independence. Infusing these diverse concerns with his inventive vision, Kingelez explored the multivalent realities and potentials of the contemporary city, proposing, in his own words, a ‘better, more peaceful world’.” — Introductory Wall Text

Bodys Isek Kingelez (Congolese, 1948-2015). Untitled. c. 1980. Paper, paperboard, and other various materials, 32 15/16 × 14 7/8 × 9 5/8″ (83.6 × 37.8 × 24.5 cm). Private collection, Paris. Photograph by Kleinefenn.

Bodys Isek Kingelez (Congolese, 1948-2015). Paris Nouvel. 1989. Paper, paperboard, and other various materials, 33 7/16 × 24 × 27 9/16″ (85 × 61 × 70 cm). Long-term loan from the Centre national des arts plastiques, France to the Château d’Oiron, France, FNAC 981003. © Cnap (France) / droits résérves; photograph by Frédéric Pignoux, Studio Ludo.

Bodys Isek Kingelez (Congolese, 1948-2015). Stars Palme Bouygues. 1989. Paper, paperboard, and other various materials, 39 3/8 × 15 3/4 × 15 3/4″ (100 × 40 × 40 cm). van Lierde collection, Brussels. Vincent Everarts Photography Brussels.

Bodys Isek Kingelez (Congolese, 1948-2015). Belle Hollandaise. 1991. Paper, paperboard, and other various materials, 21 5/8 × 31 11/16 × 22 1/16″ (55 × 80.5 × 56 cm). Collection Groninger Museum. Photograph by Marten de Leeuw.

Bodys Isek Kingelez (Congolese, 1948-2015). Kinshasa la Belle. 1991. Paper, paperboard, and other various materials, 24 13/16 × 21 5/8 × 31 1/2″ (63 × 55 × 80 cm). CAAC – The Pigozzi Collection, Geneva. © Bodys Isek Kingelez / Photo: Maurice Aeschimann. Courtesy CAAC – The Pigozzi Collection.

Bodys Isek Kingelez (Congolese, 1948-2015). Place de la Ville. 1993. Paper, paperboard, plastic, and other various materials, 15 3/4 × 33 7/16 × 29 1/2″ (40 × 85 × 75 cm). Courtesy The Museum of Everything.

Bodys Isek Kingelez (Congolese, 1948-2015). Africanisch. 1994. Paper, paperboard, plastic, and other various materials, 19 11/16 × 22 7/16 × 24″ (50 × 57 × 61 cm). Private collection, Paris. Photograph by Kleinefenn.

Bodys Isek Kingelez (Congolese, 1948-2015). Kimbembele Ihunga. 1994. Paper, paperboard, plastic, and other various materials, 51 3/16″ x 72 13/16″ x 10′ 5″ (130 × 185 × 320 cm). CAAC – The Pigozzi Collection, Geneva. © Bodys Isek Kingelez / Photo: Maurice Aeschimann. Courtesy CAAC – The Pigozzi Collection.

Bodys Isek Kingelez (Congolese, 1948-2015). U.N. 1995. Paper, paperboard, and other various materials, 35 13/16 × 29 1/8 × 20 7/8″ (91 × 74 × 53 cm), irreg. CAAC – The Pigozzi Collection, Geneva. © Bodys Isek Kingelez / Photo: Maurice Aeschimann. Courtesy CAAC – The Pigozzi Collection.

Bodys Isek Kingelez (Congolese, 1948-2015). Ville Fantôme. 1996. Paper, paperboard, plastic and other various materials, 47 1/4” × 8′ 8 7⁄16″× 7′ 10 1⁄2″ (120 × 570 × 240 cm). CAAC – The Pigozzi Collection, Geneva. © Bodys Isek Kingelez / Photo: Maurice Aeschimann. Courtesy CAAC – The Pigozzi Collection.

Bodys Isek Kingelez (Congolese, 1948-2015). Sports Internationaux. 1997. Paper, plastic, and other various materials, 35 7/16 × 33 7/16 × 9 13/16″ (90 × 85 × 25 cm), irreg. Purchased 2013 with funds from Tim Fairfax, AM, through the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation. Collection Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane. © QAGOMA, Natasha Harth.

Bodys Isek Kingelez (Congolese, 1948-2015). Ville de Sète 3009. 2000. Paper, paperboard, plastic, and other various materials, 31 1/2 × 9′ 10 1⁄8″ × 6′ 10 11⁄16″ (80 × 300 × 210 cm). Collection Musée International des Arts Modestes (MIAM), Sète, France. © Pierre Schwartz ADAGP; courtesy Musée International des Arts Modestes (MIAM), Sète, France.

Bodys Isek Kingelez (Congolese, 1948-2015). Nippon Tower. 2005. Paper, paperboard, plastic, and other various materials, 26 3/8 × 13 3/8 × 8 11/16″ (67 × 34 × 22 cm), irreg. Courtesy Aeroplastics Contemporary, Brussels. Vincent Everarts Photography Brussels.

Bodys Isek Kingelex with Étoile Rouge Congolaise in Nantes, 1993. Courtesy André Magnin, Paris; photograph by André Magnin.

Bodys Isek Kingelez: City Dreams is organized by Sarah Suzuki, Curator, with Hillary Reder, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Drawings and Prints, The Museum of Modern Art. Exhibition design is produced in collaboration with the artist Carsten Höller.

Images courtesy The Museum of Modern Art.