Archive for May, 2018

Art | Bodys Isek Kingelez: Extreme Model World

Friday, May 11th, 2018

Africanisch (detail), 1994
Paper, paperboard, plastic,
various other materials
Private collection
Photo Kleinefenn



Bodys Isek Kingelez:
City Dreams
Museum of Modern Art
New York | USA
26 May 2018 > 1 January 2019



Bodys Isek Kingelez
in Kinshasa, 1990
Photo André Magnin,
courtesy André Magnin



The idea of 21st-century visionaries creating buildings and even whole cities from recycled materials doesn’t seem that strange. In remote Kinshasa however, in 1978, when artist Bodys Isek Kingelez started to make his ‘extreme models’ or ‘extreme maquettes,’ of buildings out of found materials, such as bottle caps, commercial packaging and plastic, the Belgians and French who worked at the National Museum, staggering in confusion and disbelief, accused him of having stolen his technique. Soon after the Museum gave him a job as a restorer and ‘banned’ him from making sculpture.

But Kingelez persevered and although in the early 1980s, he had still never seen any city other than Kinshasa, ‘not even in photos’, the intricately-constructed models he was making began to develop into his vision of a world that he believed could be built and lived in, in the present, or in the future, and represented his hopes of renewal in a de-colonised Africa. ‘I wanted my art to serve the community that is being reborn to create a new world,’ he would say later, his Utopia still to materialise, ‘I created these cities so there would be lasting peace, justice and universal freedom. They will function like small secular states with their own political structure, and will not need policemen or an army.’

Ville de Sète 3009, 2000
Collection Musée International
des Arts Modestes, Sète, France
© Pierre Schwartz ADAGP,
courtesy MIAM



Nippon Tower, 2005
Courtesy Aeroplastics
Contemporary, Brussels
Photo Vincent Everarts



Belle Hollandaise, 1991
Collection Groninger Museum
Photo Marten de Leeuw



Plagued by poverty, mistrust in the country’s banks and a deepening economic crisis Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo (previously the Belgian Congo, briefly called Zaire), where bumper to bumper traffic clogs the city while the outskirts are without either roads or electricity, has become one of the world’s worst megacities. Perhaps if its authorities and decision-makers had aligned themselves with Kingelez’s way of thinking, things might have turned out somewhat differently. Referring to himself as a designer, an architect, a sculptor, engineer, [and] artist’, he regarded his work as ‘an irrefutable contribution to life and science’, but remained forever conscious that in Africa, art was new and not yet properly understood and that political leaders were wary of it and unable to grasp its importance.

Kinshasa la Belle (detail), 1991
CAAC – The Pigozzi
Collection, Geneva
© Bodys Isek Kingelez
Photo Maurice Aeschimann,
courtesy CAAC



Having been invited to exhibit at Jean Pigozzi’s Contemporary African Art Collection (CAAC) in Paris, by 1989, Bodys Isek Kingelez (b Jean Baptiste, 1948) was catapulted to global acclaim. His work has since been featured in numerous international exhibitions and is included in the private collections of both Pigozzi and Agnes B, among others. In 1992 he began assembling entire cities with numerous buildings, avenues, parks, stadiums and monuments and, when his first large-scale imaginary city, Kimbembele Ihunga – named after the village in which he was born and brought up – was shown there in 1995, Kingelez created an homage to Jean Nouvel, architect of the Fondation Cartier building in Paris.

This month over 30 of the 3000 models Kingelez constructed during the course of his career, which ended with his death in 2015, go on show in Bodys Isek Kingelez: City Dreams at The Museum of Modern Art in New York.

All works by Bodys Isek Kingelez, made from paper, cardboard, plastic and various other materials. All images courtesy MoMA


Tell us what you think
The Blog is about art, architecture, books, design, gardens and anything else that currently interests us that we think might interest you

The Blog’s publishers insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being made available to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees that may, under any circumstances whatsoever, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier


Share this post
Facebook Twitter Linkedin

Architecture | Wagner: Grandfather of Post-Modernism

Friday, May 4th, 2018

Wiener Werkstätte,
postcard no. 251
with portrait of Otto
Wagner, Vienna, 1911
© MAK



Post Otto Wagner
From Postal Savings
Bank to Post-Modernism
MAK
Vienna | Austria
30 May > 30 September 2018



Viennese architect, Otto Wagner (1841 > 1918) is lauded by many as the father of modernism but he was also – perhaps unwittingly – the grandfather of post-modernism.

In 1894, already in his fifties and having led a cosy and respectable life, Wagner was appointed Professor of architecture at the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts, whereupon he denounced all stylistic imitation as false and inappropriate and became transformed into an outspoken advocate of modern architecture. That same year, however, his bark less than his bite, he designed the first few of Vienna’s elevated and underground railways stations which, although they were an extraordinary feat of logical functionalism and state-of-the-art technology, were executed in conventional neo-renaissance and neo-baroque styles. Possibly under the influence of his former pupils, Josef Hoffmann and Josef Maria Olbrich, both of whom worked for him for several years, Wagner’s approach changed drastically for later stations that featured decorative elements reflecting the secessionist spirit of jugendstil or art nouveau. In 1898 he formally joined the Vienna Secession, remaining a member until 1905.

Grand Banking Hall,
Imperial Royal
Austrian Postal
Savings Bank,
(1904 > 1906),
Vienna, Austria



Warm-air blower,
Imperial Royal
Austrian Postal
Savings Bank,
Vienna, Austria



Linear, smooth and crisp in design, its marble facings on the external walls secured by simple aluminium fastenings, with exposed metal and glass featuring on the inside, Vienna’s Imperial Royal Austrian Postal Savings Bank (1904 > 1906) is regarded as Otto Wagner’s masterpiece. Superficially, it appears as purely functional as the younger, German architect Peter BehrensAEG Turbine Factory building, erected shortly afterwards in Berlin, but Wagner, by now in his 70s, hadn’t felt able to banish decoration and historical reference entirely from his design.

Imperial Royal
Postal Savings Office,
Vienna. From Some
sketches, drafts and
executed projects,
Otto Wagner, 1906



After a long and influential career, Wagner died in 1918. The pure and unadorned modernist aesthetic, devoid of historical reference, which Wagner had flirted with but never quite come to terms with, would come to dominate international architecture after the publication of Le Corbusier’s Vers Une Architecture, in 1923, and thereafter would go unchallenged for almost 30 years. In the 1950s, however, American architect Robert Venturi (b 1925) – later dubbed father of post-modernism – and similarly-minded others began to criticise it as blithely functionalist and symbolically vacuous. Their ideas began to circulate and would develop into a global movement. However, despite the name that came to identify it, and its implicit threat of burying modernism in its shadow, and although it would eventually metamorphose and mutate into the multi-faceted architecture of today, early post-modernism, characterised by a mix of architectural elements extracted from previous centuries of building, with its decorative facades and simplified ornamental forms suggesting symbolic value, marked a return to Otto Wagner’s late 19th-century and early 20th century somewhat muddled, pre-modern approach to design.

Post Otto Wagner: From the Postal Savings Bank to Post-Modernism at MAK marks the 100th anniversary of Otto Wagner’s death and looks at his influence on his students and on later generations of architects and designers.

All images courtesy MAK
Photos © Hagen Stier, 2015


Tell us what you think
The Blog is about art, architecture, books, design, gardens and anything else that currently interests us that we think might interest you

The Blog’s publishers insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being made available to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees that may, under any circumstances whatsoever, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier


Share this post
Facebook Twitter Linkedin