I first became aware of the work of Bodys Isek Kingelez, captivated by his intricate, colourful maquettes, at the retrospective that was presented at MoMA during the second half of 2018. There is a joyous, optimistic quality about these toy-like cities that brought a smile to the child in me; but make no mistake – these tiny sculptures, made from modest materials like glue and paper, straws and bottles, soda cans and bottle caps, are no toys. They are a delicate body of artwork, visions of utopian cities, images of a better world. Like, for example, the U.N. (1995), made in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the United Nations, reflecting the artist’s belief in a world of democracy, peace, and cooperation. Or his Ville Fantôme (1996), a peaceful city in which doctors and police are unecessary.
An extract from the artist’s bio (for more info click on his name):
”Visionary artist Bodys Isek Kingelez created dazzling, intricate architectural sculptures that he called “extreme maquettes.” Born in the agricultural village of Kimbembele Ihunga in the Belgian Congo (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) in 1948, he came of age in a period of enormous political and social transformation. In 1970, he relocated to Kinshasa—the capital of the newly independent nation renamed Zaire—to pursue a university education. After his studies, motivated by a desire to make a civic contribution to his country, Kingelez worked briefly as a secondary school teacher. However, he soon became “obsessed with the idea of getting my hands on some scissors, a Gillette razor, and some glue and paper…” and began to create sculptures that took the form of buildings, constructed from modest materials like paper, cardboard, and repurposed commercial packaging, and embellished with push-pins, straws, elaborate hand-applied designs, and more. It was through these sculptures that he felt he could help shape “a better, more peaceful world.” The technical excellence of Kingelez’s early work led to his hiring as a restorer at the National Museums Institute of Zaire, where he repaired traditional objects in the collection until he devoted himself to art making full-time in the early 1980s.”
“Art is the grandest adventure of them all…art is a high form of knowledge, a vehicle for individual renewal that contributes to a better collective future.” – Bodys Isek Kingelez (1948–2015)
MoMA, New York
July 28th, 2018