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In the frame | Bodys Isek Kingelez

The African contemporary art market has radically grown over the last decade. Christophe Person, new African Contemporary Art Director at Artcurial, explains the charms of one of its shining lights, Bodys Isek Kingelez

Pacific Art (1989) by Bodys Isek Kingelez

For the past ten years, contemporary African art has been on the rise. Supported by collectors from all walks of life, more and more are starting to see the aesthetic and financial benefits. It is a niche in the art market that is constantly gaining notoriety.

Although it has a long tradition, the entry of Contemporary African Art into the international scene is often linked to the Magiciens de la Terre exhibition in Paris in 1989.

For the first time, contemporary Western art was confronted with art from elsewhere, characterised by its singularity and a wave of freshness and novelty.

This emblematic exhibition was also the collection catalyst for the jet-setter and heir to SIMCA Jean Pigozzi, a real pioneer in the field, along with the dealer and curator André Magnin, who donated part of his collection to MoMA from New York.

Since then, the African contemporary art market has radically changed in scale. This expansion occurred in the early 2010s, with the creation of the 1:54 Fair (for the 54 African countries) in London, then in New York and Marrakech. Some of the market hubs where you can still find great bargains.

The African contemporary art market has radically changed in scale; this expansion occurred in the early 2010s

Contemporary African art is firmly rooted in contemporaneity. Say goodbye to the traditions and aesthetics of tribal art as young African artists claim to be citizens of the world.

Through their travels and their personal trajectories, they are witnesses of global change.

The dreams and aspirations of the young people of Abidjan, Khartoum or Kampala are the same as those of the inhabitants of London, Hong Kong or Chicago, but with the addition of the paradoxes of African history.

An observer of African scenes will notice the relevance of the messages conveyed by artists who, thanks to their international training and experience, approach all mediums, and master in particular sculpture, installation, textiles, video or even performance.

Their visions are those of precursors: they are able to understand and digest social issues, especially those relating to identity, gender, the movement of goods or people, the environment or urbanization.

Radio TV (2010) by Bodys Isek Kingelez

Bodys of work

Originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Bodys Isek Kingelez, who participated in the Magiciens de la Terre exhibition, was, from the end of the 1970s, preoccupied with an individual desire to contribute to the future of a decolonized Africa.

He who has never traveled from the sprawling city of Kinshasa, the only city he has ever seen, throws together curious cardboard models, fashioning a new, more modern habitat in order to discover an alternative way of living. In the early 1980s, his visionary spirit, which encompassed designer, architect, model maker, engineer and artist, created constructions which he called 'National Museum', 'Atomic Commission' and 'Orient Star'.

In line with his youthful ambitions, Bodys Izek Kingelez is now one of the most eminent African artists around the world, artists of the World.

He has exhibited in Paris at the Fondation Cartier as part of the Beauté Congo exhibition, at the Fondation Louis Vuitton as well as Le Nouvel Atelier and is one of the few African artists to have benefited from a retrospective at MoMA, City Dreams.

Artcurial currently holds the world record for auctioning a work by Kingelez with the Pacific Art Tower (1989), sold in December 2018 for €71,500 including fees.

Artcurial's next African contemporary art sale will be held in Marrakech on 30 December; it will also be possible, as always, to bid remotely, online or by telephone.

See more here: artcurial.com

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