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Marvel at Bodys Isek Kingelez’s spectacular cityscapes made of everyday materials

Now on show at the MoMA

Colorful cityscape sculpture
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).
Maurice Aeschimann. Courtesy CAAC – The Pigozzi Collection

On the third floor of New York’s Museum of Modern Art, a gallery is currently filled with colorfully fantastical visions of the future. Crafted by the late Congolese artist Bodys Isek Kingelez, the cityscapes are part of Bodys Isek Kingelez: City Dreams, the first retrospective of his work.

Bodys Isek Kingelex with Étoile Rouge Congolaise in Nantes, 1993.
Photo by André Magnin courtesy of MoMA.
Close up of Bodys Isek Kingelez cityscape
U.N. (detail). 1995. Paper, paperboard, and other various materials, 35 13/16 × 29 1/8 × 20 7/8″ (91 × 74 × 53 cm), irreg.
Maurice Aeschimann. Courtesy CAAC – The Pigozzi Collection

Kingelez created his sculptural visions of Africa’s future metropolises from everyday materials like cardboard, scrap metal, bottle caps, and recycled packaging. Though they were fictional, the buildings were built as an optimistic view of architecture’s power to change a city’s circumstance.

“Without a model, you are nowhere,” Kingelez once said. “A nation that can’t make models is a nation that doesn’t understand things, a nation that doesn’t live.”

Bodys Isek Kingelez cityscape
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).
Pierre Schwartz ADAGP; courtesy Musée International des Arts Modestes (MIAM), Sète, France

The exhibition will span Kingelez’s multi-decade career, from his early works of standalone buildings to the elaborately crafted cities of the future he built later in life. City Dreams will run until January 2019—plenty of time to marvel at the work’s vibrant intricacies.

Close up of Bodys Isek Kingelez cityscape
Kinshasa la Belle (detail). 1991. Paper, paperboard, and other various materials, 24 13/16 × 21 5/8 × 31 1/2″ (63 × 55 × 80 cm).
Maurice Aeschimann. Courtesy CAAC – The Pigozzi Collection
Belle Hollandaise. 1991. Paper, paperboard, and other various materials, 21 5/8 × 31 11/16 × 22 1/16″ (55 × 80.5 × 56 cm).
Photo by Marten de Leeuw courtesy of MoMA.