Bodys Isek Kingelez

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Bodys Isek Kingelez
Born Jean Baptiste
Kimbembele-Ihunga, Belgian Congo
Died March 14, 2015
Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo
Nationality Democratic Republic of Congo
Education Self-taught
Known for Sculpture
Patron(s) Jean Marc Patras

Bodys Isek Kingelez or Jean Baptiste (1948-March 14, 2015) was a sculptor and artist from the Democratic Republic of Congo, mostly known for his models of fantastic cities made of cardboard. His work has been presented in numerous exhibitions in Europe and North America, including exhibitions at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris and the Museum of Modern Art in New York and at the documenta XI in Kassel.[1]


Kingelez was born as Jean Baptiste in 1948 in Kimbembele-Ihunga in what was then the Belgian Congo. After graduating from secondary school he moved to Kinshasa in 1970. Until 1977 he studied part-time and supported himself by teaching at a school and by working as a restorer of tribal masks at the National Museum in Kinshasa. At the same time he began to create some of his first art works. Since 1985 he has dedicated himself entirely to his art.[2][3]

In 1989 he was invited to Paris to present his art in the exhibition Les Magiciens de la Terre by André Magnin, curator of The Contemporary African Art Collection (CAAC) of Jean Pigozzi. Since then his work has been featured in numerous exhibitions and has been included in the collection of Jean Pigozzi among other private collectors including Agnes B and the Museum of Séte (France). He died in 2015.


Kingelez is known for his models mostly of fantastic and utopian cities made of cardboard, paper and plastic. His models of entire cities reflect the sprawling and anarchic metropolis of Kinshasa or other African megacities, offering a futurist vision of the African city.[2] His models frequently incorporate materials found in the urban world, such as bottle caps, corrugated cardboard or tinfoil. This mirrors the widespread practice of recycling found in Kinshasa or other African cities.[4]

Kingelez has called his art Extreme Models (French: Extrêmes maquettes) and has said about his artistic approach: “I make this most deeply imaginary, meticulous and well considered work with the aim of having more influence over life. As a black artist I must set a good example by receiving the light which pure art, this vital human instrument, kindles for the sake of all. Thanks to my deep hope for a happy tomorrow, I strive to better my quality, and the better becomes the wonderful. I exhibit a mode of expression which fits me like a glove, and I point out that I am another artist.”[3]

Kingelez has created more than 300 models. He started with models of individual architectural structures. In 1992 he began to assemble entire cities with numerous buildings, avenues, parks, stadiums and monuments. His first model of a city was called Kimbembele-Ihunga after the village where he was born. Notable works of Kingelez include Ville Fantôme ("Phantom City," 1995), Kin 3ème millénaire ("Kinshasa: Project for the Third Millennium," 1997) and La Ville du Futur ("City of the Future," 2000).[2][5]

In 2010 he showed his project Ville Fantôme at the Centre Pompidou in Paris in an exhibition named Dreamlands.




  • 2010 Dreamlands, Pompidou Center, Paris, featuring Bodys Isek Kingelez's amazing model city "Ville Fantôme"
  • 2005 Perspectives 145 : Bodys Isek Kingelez, Nina and Michael Zilkha Gallery, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, USA
  • 2003 Bodys Isek Kingelez, Centre culturel Wolu-Culture, La Médiatine, Bruxelles, Belgium
  • 2002 Bodys Isek Kingelez, Munich Villa, Stuck, Germany
  • 2000-2001 Bodys Isek Kingelez, Kunstverein, Hambourg, Germany
  • 1996 D'autres Ajouts d'Eté, Bodys Isek Kingelez, MAMCO Contemporary and Modern Art Museum, Geneva, Switzerland
  • 1995 Bodys Isek Kingelez, Cartier Fondation for Contemporary Art, Paris, France
  • 1992 Bodys Isek Kingelez, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, Germany


  • 2015 Beauté Congo, Fondation Cartier, Paris, France[6]
  • 2013 Alternative Guide to the Universe, Hayward Gallery, London, UK
  • 2011 JapanCongo, Magasin Grenoble, France
  • 2010 African Stories, Marrakech Art Fair, Marrakech
  • 2007 Why Africa? Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli, Turin, Italy
  • 2006 100% Africa, Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao, Spain
  • 2006 Aller/retour : L’Afrique, La Casa Encendida, Madrid, Spain
  • 2005 Arts of Africa, Grimaldi Forum, Monaco, France
  • 2005 African Art Now : Masterpieces from the Jean Pigozzi Collection, Museum of Fine Art Houston, USA
  • 2004-2005 Arti & Architettura 1900/2000, Genova Palazzo Ducale, Genoa, Italy
  • 2004 Africa Remix, Art contemporain d’un continent, travelling exhibition
  • 2004 Je m’installe aux abattoirs, La collection d’art contemporain d’agnès b., Les Abattoirs, Toulouse, France
  • 2004 Les Afriques, Tri Postal, Lille, France
  • 2003 The American Effect, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, USA
  • 2003 Transferts, Palais des Beaux Arts, Brussels, Belgium
  • 2002 Documenta XI, Kassel, Germany
  • 2002 Sao-Paulo Biennal, Sao-Paulo, Brazil
  • 2000 Musée International des Arts Modestes, Sète, France
  • 2000 Sydney Biennal, Sydney, Australia
  • 1999 1 Monde Réel, Cartier Fondation for Contemporary Art, Paris, France


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b c Contemporary African Art Collection. "Biography of Body Isek Kingelez". Retrieved 2008-03-29. 
  3. ^ a b Haus der Kulturen der Welt (May 2003). "Bodys Isek Kingelez". Retrieved 2008-03-29. 
  4. ^ Carnegie Museum of Art (1999–2000). "Bodys Isek Kingelez". Archived from the original on 2008-09-14. Retrieved 2008-03-29. 
  5. ^ "Bodys Isek Kingelez - Pigozzi Collection 2017". CAACART - The Pigozzi Collection. Retrieved 2017-05-23. 
  6. ^ Donadio, Rachel (2015-07-24). "Exploring a Century of Art From Congo". The New York Times. Retrieved 2017-05-23. 


  • Kingelez, Bodys Isek; Yilmaz Dziewior (September 2001). Bodys Isek Kingelez. Hatje Cantz Publishers. ISBN 3-7757-1054-X. 
  • Serageldin, Ismail; Bodys Isek Kingelez (November 1993). Home and the World. Museum for African Art. ISBN 3-7913-1326-6. 
  • Subiros, Pep (2001). Africas: The Artist and the City. Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona. ISBN 84-95273-86-1. 
  • Kingelez, Bodys Isek; Haus der Kulturen der Welt GmbH (1992). Bodys Isek Kingelez Künstler der Welt. Haus der Kulturen der Welt GmbH and Edition Cantz,Stuttgart. ISBN 3-89322-307-X. 

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