First US survey of Bodys Isek Kingelez shows how his sculptures addressed urban, social and economic concerns in Congo

There has been a rapid rise in interest in contemporary African art over the past few years, with major survey shows from Brazil to France, new museums springing up in Marrakech and Cape Town and the ever-expanding 1-54 art fair, as well as attention from the big auction houses. Coming hot on the heels of this trend is the first US survey of the Congolese artist Bodys Isek Kingelez (1948–2015) at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, which offers a fresh approach to this visionary artist. Kingelez, who produced wondrous urban models with found magazines and product packaging, was not simply an artist who created proverbial castles in the air. As the artist himself said: “Without a model, you are nowhere.” 

Featuring work that dates from the early 1980s through to the end of Kingelez’s life, the exhibition tells the story of how these models addressed urban, social and economic concerns. “While he knew they were not likely to be realised in his lifetime—in fact, he said we were not ready for them—they were certainly a proposal, a real, tangible proposal for how we might live in the tomorrow,” says the exhibition’s curator, Sarah Suzuki.