Details & Cataloguing

Modern & Contemporary African Art


Bodys Isek Kingelez
signed and dated 2000 (on the underside)
cardboard, plastic, pins, card, pen and paint 
75.8 by 34.2 by 25.3cm., 30 by 13½ by 10in.
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Private Collection, Paris 
Acquired from the above by the present owner

Catalogue Note

Bodys Isek Kingelez was born in 1948 in the village of Kimbembele Ihunga, Bandundu Province, Democratic Republic of Congo. The first in his family to obtain a university level education, Kingelez spent the beginning of his career as a teacher, before abandoning that profession in 1978 to contribute to the fight for a decolonised Africa.

‘I stopped teaching in 1978 without realising that I was becoming an artist. I came to the decision to leave teaching through a personal desire to contribute to the future of Africa, a decolonized Africa.  I combined all my efforts so that Africa would always be heard. I had the conviction to find the best way of obtaining my objectives, and so I began a repertoire of ideas within the little room I was living in at that time. Then, for about a month, I went through a troubled and vague period and it was at that moment that I was overcome with an almost obsessive desire to pick up a pair of scissors, a Gillette razor, glue and paper.'

Kingelez would spend from 1978 to 1984 working as a restorer at the Musée National de Kinshasa, restoring countless objects and demonstrating an innate skill for the trade.

Bodys Isek Kingelez is remembered for his sprawling utopic architectural landscapes, which are heavily inspired by the city of Kinshasa, the artist’s hometown and the third largest city in Africa. From recognisable structures, such as pagodas, pavilions and skyscrapers, to completely original constructions, these obsessively detailed works are delicate yet grand, possessing an undeniable joyful vitality. Created using a variety of modest and commonly used materials, many of Kingelez’s ‘extreme maquettes’ or ‘extreme models’ reflect the impact of space-race influenced Soviet architecture within the context of a newly post-colonial Africa.

A self-described architect, designer, artist and engineer, Bodys Isek Kingelez saw his models as a service to his community, a means through which to present a new, more peaceful and pleasant way of living. Created in 2000, the present lot is an outstanding example of a maquette by the Congolese artist. A central skyscraper rises above several smaller scale buildings, all of which possess, in some way or another, Kingelez’s signature intricacies and vibrant colouring.

In 2018, MoMA will present a complete retrospective of Bodys Isek Kingelez’s work. Spanning over three decades of creation, Kingelez’s first retrospective will include a wide breadth of rarely seen works from throughout the artist’s career. Indeed, examples of earlier works—included in the famed Magiciens de la Terre exhibition in 1989 at the Centre Pompidou—will be on view alongside examples of Kingelez’s trademark large sprawling cities as well as his more futuristic creations, which the artist began towards the end of his career.

Kingelez enjoyed several solo exhibitions throughout his lifetime. His work can be found in many prominent private collections and has been featured in several key international exhibitions including, Beauté Congo at the Fondation Cartier, Paris (2015), African Art Now: Masterpieces from the Jean Pigozzi Collection at the Museum of Fine Art Houston (2005) and the traveling Africa Remix: Contemporary Art of A Continent (2004).

Beauté Congo, Fondation Cartier, Paris, 2015-2016, p. 253


Modern & Contemporary African Art