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The tiny, global cities of Bodys Isek Kingelez

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“A NATION that can’t make models is a nation that doesn’t understand things, a nation that doesn’t live,” said Bodys Isek Kingelez. The figurative meaning of the Congolese artist’s words resonates: poor planning has led to instability, financial ruin and crises of all kinds in countries around the world. But for Kingelez “models” were also literal. He made his statement while slicing and gluing strips of plastic to make a small skyscraper for one of his fantastical cityscapes.

Kingelez built miniature utopias out of toothpicks, cardboard, bottle caps, cigarette cartons, Coke cans and even razor blades. They are astonishingly intricate, down to the cartoonish trees on the tiny pavements. More than 30 of his models are now on display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, in Kingelez’s first major American retrospective since his death in 2015. There is a political undercurrent to his work: he imagined a state without police and a better hospital for AIDS patients. But first and foremost, his models are visual…Continue reading

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