Tseng Kwong Chi

Collaborated Project:

City As Studio | Exhibition

Tseng Kwong Chi (b. 1950, Hong Kong; d.1990, New York, New York, U.S.) was a photographer and performer internationally known for his photographic series East Meets West aka Expeditionary Self-Portrait Series. At age 10, he began Chinese painting classes in Hong Kong and was regarded as a child prodigy. In 1966, his family immigrated to Vancouver, Canada. He received his formal art training in Paris, France, and graduated with honors in 1975.

In the provocative images that comprise the East Meets West Series, Tseng poses—always donning his stereotypical Mao suit—in front of iconic architecture and sublime nature as his invented artistic persona: a Chinese “Ambiguous Ambassador.” His work explores tourist photography in a playful juxtaposition of truth, fiction and identity, while also paying homage to landmarks and the grandeur and mystery of nature.

Shortly after his arrival in New York City in 1978, he became friends with Keith Haring, John Sex, Kenny Scharf, Bill T. Jones and other luminaries of the Downtown scene. He was an important documentarian and denizen of the Downtown 1980s New York club and art scene. Invited to be Haring’s official photo-chronicler, Tseng captured Haring’s guerilla style underground subway drawings, political actions and collaborations with peers. This decade-long friendship created the world’s largest photo archive of Haring, consisting of approximately 25,000 images. He photographed almost all of Haring’s 5,000 chalk subway drawings.