BODYS ISEK KINGELEZ
signed, titled and dated Aout 1989 (on the base); signed, inscribed and dated 26 Aout 1989 (on the underside of the base)
coloured paper, coloured marker, watercolour, pen, pencil, paper board, pins, metallic foil paper, plastic ornament and straw on foamcore structure
81.2 by 65.4 by 45cm., 32 by 25 ¾ by 17 ¾in.
The following condition notes are in line with the age of the piece, medium and artist's practice.
There appears to be light wear to the edges in various places. Spots of discoloration and minor surface marks throughout. Various accretions and fibers in crevices. Some minor separation of elements at joints and minor lifting in various areas. There appears to be a handful of pinhole punctures to the base of the work with possible further instances elsewhere. These pinholes appear to be in line with the artist's practice and could be inherent to the work. Some of the pins appear to be tilted, however, this is likely inherent. There appears to be a handful of light wrinkles to the card, only visible on very close inspection. There is an area to the base of the central triangular tower which appears to exhibit a minor indentation due to light impact. This area measures approx. 2.5cm wide and is visible on close inspection. The red ball on the top of the central tower is slightly loose but secure.
Colours appear true to the catalogue illustration.
Please telephone the department on +44(0) 207 293 6323 if you have any questions regarding the present work.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.
NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF BUSINESS PRINTED IN THE SALE CATALOGUE."
Diego Cortez Arte Ltd., New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1998
Munich, Berlin, Chicago, New York (Museum of Modern Art PS1), The Short Century: Independence and Liberation Movements in Africa, 1945-1994, 2001- 2002, illustrated in the exh cat (Okwui Enwezor ed) p. 129, titled Bel Atlas/Grand Arche de la Défense à Paris
New York City, New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Bodys Isek Kingelez: City Dreams, 26 May 2018-1 January 2019, illustrated in colour in the catalogue, no. 8, p. 66
In 2018, MoMa hosted a complete retrospective of Bodys Isek Kingelez’s work, making him the first black African artist to ever enjoy a solo show at the renowned institution. Spanning over three decades of creation, Kingelez: City Dreams featured a selection of works by the Congolese artist, much of which had rarely been seen before.
Bodys Isek Kingelez (1948-2015) was born in the rural village of Kimbembele-Ihunga in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (then the Belgian Congo). Growing up with eight siblings in a family of agricultural laborers, Kingelez became aware of his creative potential at a young age. He excelled in calligraphy, a skill that was to have a lasting influence on his work. Leaving behind his rural home at the age of 22, Kingelez studied in the bustling city of Kinshasa, working first as a teacher. In 1978, Kingelez abandoned this profession due to the realisation that he wanted to contribute, in his own way, to the fight for a decolonised Africa. The artist recounts:
‘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.'
During the 70s and 80s, Kingelez’s artistic practice was bolstered by his work as an art technician at the Institut des Musées Nationaux du Zaïre (IMNZ, now the Institut des Musées Nationaux du Congo); where he honed his craftsmanship through repairing artworks from the collection. Additionally, the systematic cataloguing approach employed by the museum likely influenced the numbering system which he used to label his artworks.
Kingelez worked during an era of tremendous change. Straddled between colonial and post-colonial periods, he used his work to envision a forward-thinking, peaceful and prosperous future, untainted by economic disparity. His political engagement continually manifests itself in his sculptures.
The artist used brightly coloured commercial packaging and commonplace materials, such as milk cartons, bottle caps and razors, to create utopian worlds complete with dream-like pavilions, skyscrapers, pagodas and even completely original constructions. The artist’s cityscapes are flamboyant and fantastical metropolises; worlds where racial and geopolitical barriers come tumbling down. Kingelez’s 'extreme maquettes' echo the physicality of the industrialized city that he grew up in. His vibrant yet orderly cities reflect the impact of Space Race-influenced Soviet architecture on a newly post-colonial Africa as well as the Art Deco buildings of colonial times. Kinshasa presented
Kingelez with a patchwork of structural and design inspiration.
In 1989, Kingelez was invited to participate in the landmark contemporary art exhibition Magiciens de la Terre, held at the esteemed Centre Georges Pompidou and the Grande Halle de la Villette. The artist exhibited six sculptures in the highly influential exhibition, which placed ‘Western’ and ‘Non-Western’ artists on an equal footing. In the same year as the exhibition, during Kingelez’s six months stay in Paris, the artist became increasingly influenced by the city’s architecture, especially the newly inaugurated Grande Arche de la Défense in Paris. The Grande Arche is referenced in the present lot, Bel Atlas (1989). Bel Atlas emulates the distinctive hollow, arch-like form and grandeur of the landmark, which was built for the bicentennial of the French Revolution. Although predominantly monochrome, the bursts of colour differentiate the structure from other municipal buildings we recognize. The decorative ridges and outlines are painted bright purple, adding animation to the physical mass of the building. This sculpture embodies Kingelez’s playful approach to design. The building’s design is symmetrical but dynamic, with a variety of shapes incorporated into one form.
Works by Kingelez can be found in many prominent private collections and have been featured in numerous key international exhibitions such as the Johannesburg Biennale (1997), Documenta 11 (2002), Beauté Congo at the Foundation Cartier (Paris), 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
Bodys Isek Kingelez, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2018, pp. 20 -23