Portrait of Bodys Isek Kingelez by André Magnin, 2012. © André Magnin.

Bodys Isek Kingelez was a sculptor and an artist, situated in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He is well known for his constructed sculptures of buildings and complete cityscapes that are adorned with bursts of color. The maquettes that he produced defined his views of a harmonious society of the future. They serve as a visual and artistic alternative to city life in Kinshasa, the largest city of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. These works not only illustrated the artist’s interpretation of a “utopian” environment, but the works also addressed health crises, geopolitical alliances, and cross influences of global locations. The maquettes simply explored realities and potentials towards a contempt city, and a more peaceful world and environment.


Kingelez’s maquettes are of course mixed-media three-dimensional structures that are compromised of many types of materials. One can consider these maquettes to be amalgamations of said material. The material used in his works are including but not limited to: 

Paper, corrugated cardboard, paperboard, printed commercial packaging, wood, acrylic and plastic, aluminum and metal foil and cardboard, rubber foam, Styrofoam, foamcore, ink, pencil, colored pencils, crayon, marker and paint, adhesives, stickers, fabric, yarn, string, threaf, halls, straws, coper wire, coated wire, grommets, toothpicks, pins, nails, aluminum cans, plastic bottles, bottle caps, mirrors, ballpoint pen shafts, circuit-board diodes, & electric lights.

The beauty of a majority of these materials are that most of them include found objects. A lot of his work features packaging from different brands of products and plastic parts of functional pieces one may own, alike a pen or a bottle cap. The artist, while creating, also introduces and elevates his work with readymades and delightful palettes that please the eye. Adding electricity and light to these maquettes also give the work some sort of tangibility.

Kingelez’s work at the City Dreams exhibit was organized in a way in which myself, the viewer and the artist, found it whimsically organized. The division between single-buildings and cityscapes was perfect, with some structures being placed on a rotational stage.


Bodys Isek Kingelez, Ville de Sète 3009. (MIAM), SÈTE, FRANCE. © PIERRE SCHWARTZ ADAGP

The following work, Ville de Sète 3009, is a work that was featured in BODY ISEK KINGELES: City Dreams exhibit at the MoMA. It was completed in 2000, and was made during a month-long residency in the South of France. This work is the only work which incorporates electric lights. A majority of features present in this work are modeled after real-life buildings in the city of Sète, such as the Hôtel Azur. The Baie d’Espoir (Bay of Hope), is an example of a structure within the fantastical city that is fictional. This work combines both the real and the fictive, which is a central theme in Kingelez’s work. In the work, elaborate gardens, a bank, administrative buildings, offices, a stadium, police stations, and a marina are depicted. These structures prove that Ville de Sète 3009 is a highly functioning and prosperous city, that does not reflect the type of society we see today. The artist here envisions a “better, more prosperous world.”

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This work stood out to me the most, because of the intermingling of electricity with the analog approach to three-dimensional craftsmanship. This beautiful structure basically outlines Kingelez’s utopian way of thinking. What I disagree with in his works including this one, is that it depicts a “utopia.” If one thinks about it, utopian societies are basically dystopian, since a perfect world would pose to have more underlying problems. The irony is that something so beautiful, colorful and functional in my opinion, will never come to be. I keep in mind that society and economics are a progressive and developing things that are present in our world, and that perfection is something that is only a fabrication. The best thing about his work is that individuals who aim to create a better society through their work can always take away morals and themes from these whimsical models.


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