Tseng Kwong Chi: East Meets West

Tseng Kwong Chi: Performing for the Camera

9/17/2016 - 12/11/2016
Main Gallery

View Slideshow

Born in Hong Kong, educated in Vancouver and Paris, and later based in New York City, Tseng Kwong Chi (1950–1990) produced a large body of witty, playful, performance-based photography that both captured the pivotal downtown Manhattan art and club scenes of the 1980s and reflected the increasingly globalized movement of people across nations and continents. Tseng called himself an "inquisitive traveler, a witness of my time and an ambiguous ambassador." His works alternately function as witness to his life and community and as wry social commentary, raising critical questions about identity and culture.

Tseng Kwong Chi: Performing for the Camera, on view at Northwestern University Block Museum of Art from September 17 to December 11, 2016, is the first major solo museum exhibition of the photographer’s works, which have long sparked the imaginations of younger artists. The exhibition features over 80 photographs including well-known works— such as Tseng’s collaborations with Keith Haring and his East Meets West and Expeditionary series—as well as examples from the artist’s archive that have rarely been shown. An opening celebration will be held on Saturday, October 1st, 2016. 

"Tseng’s photographs address issues of popular culture, politics, cosmopolitanism, and cultural diversity. Humor and a keen observational eye combine to produce work that is both intelligent and accessible,”  Janet Dees, Block Museum Curator 

[ Download Press Release  ]

[Download Tseng Kwong Chi - Suggested Bibliography  ]


Exhibition Programs

Opening Celebration: Five Takes on Tseng Kwong Chi - Saturday, October 1, 2PM


Tseng Kwong Chi was a Hong Kong-born, Vancouver- raised artist and photo journalist immersed in the downtown New York Art Scene of the 1980s. Through rapid fire presentations and performances, Chicago-based artists Rashayla Marie Brown and Leonard Suryajaya, professors Josh Chambers Letson and Jessica Winegar, and Block Museum curator Janet Dees will explore Tseng’s legacy of cultural infiltration, political subversion and identity lived inseparable from art. Read more

A Conversation with Muna Tseng  - Wednesday, October 26, 6PM


 Experience the work of Tseng Kwong Chi in a guided tour with Muna Tseng—choreographer, dancer, and sister of the artist. Tseng, who is the trustee of the Tseng Kwong Chi estate, will lead a guided tour of her brother’s life and art, giving insight to work whose complexity is belied by its easy humor and grace. Read more

Inquisitive Traveler: A Walk Through the World(s) of Tseng Kwong Chi - Thursday November 3, 12PM

My mirrored glasses give the picture a neutral impact and a surrealistic quality I am looking for. I am an inquisitive traveler, a witness of my time, and an ambiguous ambassador. - Tseng Kwong Chi (1950-1990)

Join us for a lunch time walk through the world(s) of Tseng Kwong Chi led by Block Museum Curator for Global and Contemporary Art, Janet Dees. By focusing on a few select works in the exhibition, Tseng Kwong Chi: Performing for the Camera, Dees will highlight some of the important themes running through the artist's witty work.

Free and open to the public


Tseng Kwong Chi: Performing for the Camera - Exhibition Catalog

This lavishly illustrated 178-page monograph features 35 color and 95 duotone images and includes four essays exploring Tseng’s brief but prolific career and his multifaceted oeuvre. Reproducing more than 100 works by Tseng from the late 1970s to the late 1980s—and including archival materials and images from his commissions for the Soho Weekly News—the book represents in depth Tseng’s best-known self-portrait series, East Meets West as well as also features less familiar bodies of work such as the Moral Majority series. Published to accompany Tseng Kwong Chi’s first major retrospective—organized by the Chrysler Museum, Norfolk, Virginia, and the Grey Art Gallery at New York University—the book includes contributions by Amy Brandt, PhD, McKinnon Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, Chrysler Museum of Art; Lynn Gumpert, Director, Grey Art Gallery, New York University; Alexandra Chang, Curator of Special Projects and Director of Global Arts Programs, Asian/Pacific/American Institute, New York University; Joshua Takano Chambers-Letson, Assistant Professor of Performance Studies, Northwestern University; and the artist’s sister, choreographer and dancer Muna Tseng, director of the Tseng Kwong Chi Estate. The book also features a comprehensive exhibition history and bibliography.


Tseng Kwong Chi: Performing for the Camera was organized by the Grey Art Gallery at New York University and the Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, Virginia with the support of the Mapplethorpe Foundation  The exhibition was conceived and curated by the late Amy Brandt, McKinnon Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Chrysler Museum of Art, and is presented in her memory. 

The Block Museum's presentation of Tseng Kwong Chi: Performing for the Camera has been generously supported by Zeynep Keyman and the David C. and Sarajean Ruttenberg Arts Foundation.

Image credit: Tseng Kwong Chi, New York New York (Brooklyn Bridge), 1979. East Meets West series. Gelatin silver print, 36x36 in. Courtesy Muna Tseng Dance Projects, Inc. New York