Selected Press & Essays

“In the 1980s, Tseng Kwong Chi made a name for himself in New York’s downtown circuit with his distinctive Mao suit. He lived a form of performance, embodied the role of a Chinese dignitary — and turned his nocturnal life into art” … “Tseng and Keith Haring were mainstays of the nighttime swirl of artists and celebrities in the East Village scene – Madonna, Bill T Jones, and Cindy Sherman” … “Although Tseng predates the flourishing of identity politics in the 1990s, his work resonates today because of its provocative engagement with stereotype.”

– Simon Wu, “The Downtown Diplomat,” Aperture, Summer 2023

Discover resonances between two East Villages — one in New York, the other in Beijing — through the works of two performance artists completely unaware of each other“…”the two artists independently arrived at drag as their medium, and used it, each in their idiosyncratic way, to negotiate the power of performance and representation.”
– Alvin Li, “A Tale of Two Cities: From New York to Beijing,” TATE, December, 2022

“In his graphite drawings, [Kang Seung] Lee attempts a new visual interpretation of this powerful series by erasing the entire body of Tseng himself from the paper, except for his hand holding the camera’s manual shutter release cable ― leaving him as a smoky silhouette against the realistically rendered background.”
Park Han-sol, “Exhibition becomes compact archive of intergenerational queer narratives,” The Korea Times, November 25, 2021

“Kwong Chi’s portraits are cheeky, poignant and tender reflections on the innate humanity that we share. The Ambiguous Ambassador is a trickster for our times, an affectionately mischievous fellow exploring and exposing cultural biases with a kind heart and an open mind. Satire, at its best, is a layered and nuanced affair; it meets you where you are and allows you to engage with deeper levels if you’re willing to question your beliefs.”
Miss Rosen, “The photographer who convinced the world he was a Chinese ambassador,” i-D Magazine, Vice, November 3, 2021

“The auction [Dear Keith] saw records for works by Haring’s close friend, the late photographer Tseng Kwong Chi… Included were several works from his now-famous “East Meets West” series, in which the artist donned a Mao suit and posed next to distinctly American fare.”
Angelica Villa, ARTnews, October 1, 2020

Dear Keith raised a total of over $4.5 million to benefit The Center NYC.

Read Tseng’s feature story on the Sotheby’s website here.

“Tseng helped lay the foundation for many of today’s artists to continue to question the symbolism behind national monuments and examine the idea of racial performance.”
Wong, Harley, “Appreciating Tseng Kwong Chi’s Radical Art, beyond His Photos of Keith Haring,” Artsy, April 30, 2020 

“[T]here is something of Warhol’s nineteen-sixties self-invention in Tseng’s cultivation of an unvarying image, a mask that made the most of his outsider station. But Tseng’s art is emphatically of the eighties.”
Dillon, Brian, “Tseng Kwong Chi, an “Ambiguous Ambassador” to Life in America,” The New Yorker, June 23, 2019

“How Martin Wong and Tseng Kwong Chi subverted the outsider status imposed on them in early ’80s New York City.”
Saval, Nikil, “The Artists Who Brought Asian Americans Into the Annals of Contemporary Art,” T Magazine, The New York Times, April 22, 2018

Thessaly La Force, “Those We Lost to the AIDS Epidemic,” The New York Times,  April 17, 2018

“He was a seriously playful artist. In his utopia, everyone would be having fun; no one would be left out.”
Johnson, Ken, “Review: Tseng Kwong Chi’s Darkly Comic Images at Grey Art Gallery,” New York Times, April 24, 2015

“… this well-edited first museum retrospective goes a long way toward creating a deeper picture of Tseng’s career, taking roughly a dozen of these favorites and placing them in the context of a wider sample of his work. The result is much more than a Mao suit with a shutter release – we see Tseng’s art as a continuum of consistently engaged performance, mixing in political and social critique with the biting eye of a satirist.”
Knoblauch, Loring, “Tseng Kwong Chi: Performing for the Camera @Grey Art Gallery NYU,” Collector Daily, June 23, 2015

“He crafted an enigmatic persona and anarchic performance-based practice, and brought a devious and incendiary sense of humor to his highly sophisticated inquiry into the politics of representation.”
Dudek, Ingrid, “Performing for the Camera: Tseng Kwong Chi,” ArtAsiaPacific Magazine, June 11, 2015

“Reminiscent of Cindy Sherman’s Untitled Film Stills of the same era, and eerily prescient of today’s selfie-stick culture, Tsung’s images poked fun at both Eastern and Western stereotypes while capturing the often-vacuous wanderlust that fuels so many touristic pilgrimages.”
Ströbele, Ursula, Hatje Cantz’s The Sense of Movement: When Artists Travel, 2015.

“Tseng’s rich body of work blended the permanence of photography with the more ephemeral performances of the East Village art scene.”
Rosenberg, Karen, “Revisiting the Subversive Political Selfies of Tseng Kwong Chi, the Reagan Era’s Stephen Colbert,” Artspace, April 21, 2015

“Tseng’s actions [were] ‘paraperformative.’ That’s a complicated way of saying someone who is showing the truth of a situation by telling a lie. He is performing an identity that isn’t exactly his own, but that is revealing the truth of how people perceive identity.”
– Annas, Teresa, “Tseng Kwong Chi: more than just a guy in a Mao suit,” The Virginian Pilot, September 2015

“He was, in real life, not a tourist but a cosmopolitan skilled at acclimating to new cultures.”
– Wong, Ryan, “How a Queer Asian Artist Infiltrated the New York Scene Through Dress-Up and Self-Portraiture,” Hyperallergic, May 5, 2015

“His passion was to impress upon us the illusive nature of perfection. From the grandeur of the Badlands to the serenity of a frosty canadian lake, he seduced us subliminally.”
Rob Goyanes, “Tseng Kwong Chi: Performing for the Camera”, The Miami Rail, Spring 2015

“Making a point of his Chinese-ness, Tseng appears as the mischievous ambassador of all outsiders, amplifying the cultural quiddity of both persona and monument through performance and melodrama. The result is compelling, civic, and eccentric at once.”
Kozyreva Sanchez, Cristina, “Tseng Kwong Chi,” ArtForum, November, 2014

“Tseng Kwong Chi was not only a photographer but a performance artist, provocateur, and documentarian who traversed the globe subversively exploring notions of cultural identity, perception and the role of the individual amidst iconic and sublime locations of the world…”
“Tseng Kwong Chi: Citizen of the World”, Wall Street International, November, 2014

“Tseng was – and remains, still, in the large-scale portraits shown at Ben Brown Fine Arts – a most classy flâneur of his generation, at once drawing exhibitionist attention to his Communist-era Eastern roots with the suit and yet coolly passive in his Western cinematic-era sunglasses.”
Cheung, Ysabelle, “Citizen of the World”, Time Out, November, 2014

“I think I’ve found my favourite exhibition in Hong Kong this year – it’s at the Ben Brown Fine Arts Gallery in the Pedder Building. When I walked in, I had no idea what to expect and I was blown away.”
“Tseng Kwong Chi at Ben Brown Art Gallery”, Bluebalu, December 19, 2014

“Tseng’s uniform endowed him with both respect and revulsion but also with an authenticity rarely questioned, primarily because there were not yet precedents for this particular formulation of an Asian stereotype… His own paparazzo, he cast himself as the ultimate tourist in the ultimate tourist snapshots, except they are technically superb, and meant to be, contradicting any idea of amateur endeavor.”
– Wei, Lilly, Essay in Tseng Kwong Chi: Self-Portraits 1979-1989, Paul Kasmin Gallery, New York, NY, 2008.

“One of the central underpinnings of Tseng’s work is the Warholian conviction, shared with his better-known friends and contemporaries, that the artist is obliged to create more than the art itself—he must also clearly occupy a nexus of historical, critical, and ethical associations that provide the viewer with a contextual framework through which the art can be deployed to interpret the world around it.”
Cameron, Dan, Essay in Tseng Kwong Chi: Self-Portraits 1979-1989, Paul Kasmin Gallery, New York, NY, 2008.

“I knew Tseng a little, and he seemed to me a guy who went through life delighted. In the New York art world, the ‘80s had begun like a holiday. Galleries popped up with names like Fun, and night sites like Club 57 and the Pyramid mattered as much as regular art spaces. Tseng was at the heart of that world; permanently amused, he made holiday his work, and vice versa.”
Frankel, David, “Tseng Kwong Chi,” Interview, April 2008.

“In one sense this work parodies tourist snapshots, and shows Tseng as a stranger in a land revealed to us, by his unexpected appearance in it, as itself strange. At the same time the pictures propose a tartly cynical conflation of the supposedly conflicting ideologies of East and West: where does the proletariat go when it takes a vacation? To the same places the bourgeoisie does.”
Hagen, Charles, “Tseng Kwong Chi,” ArtForum, April 1984, pp. 79-80.

“Even if Tseng enters on a press pass, he is suddenly among the revelers of the evening and participates among them like one of the exotic emissaries who frequented the courts of Europe in the eighteenth century… as both ambassador and reporter.”
Martin, Richard, Curator, The Costume Institute, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, “One Raiment Night: Tseng Kwong Chi at the Party of the Year,” 1996.

“His robotic posture, inspired by Warhol’s notion of the artist as a machine, became a form of performance art set on a glorious world stage. Whether striking a fashionable pose at Notre Dame, diplomatically greeting an astronaut at Cape Canaveral or reverently approaching Mount Rushmore, Tseng looks both in and out of sync with his surroundings. There is no clear answer as to what he is doing there.”
Laster, Paul, “Suitable Attire Required,” Art AsiaPacific, cover and article, Fall 2004.

“The artist Tseng Kwong Chi’s “Art After Midnight” (1985), a photograph of his friends in the New York City downtown demimonde of the early 1980s, works on both a big scale and a small one. You can look at it as a chronicle of a certain moment in art and cultural history, when so many icons of the era — including, here, Keith Haring, the artists Peter McGough and David McDermott and the performer Ann Magnuson — were in the same place at the same time. You can look at it as a historical image, a capture of the last moments before AIDS completely decimated this community, and many others. Or you can look at it as something much more intimate: a group of friends, clowning for the camera, full of joy and silly with youth, even as the world as they knew it was changing forever.”
— Hanya Yanagihara, editor in chief, T: The New York Times Style Magazine, April 19, 2020
Hong Kong collector Patrick Sun. Courtesy Sunpride Foundation. Photo: Amanda Kho.

“[The SunPride Foundation’s] Spectrosynthesis — Asian LGBTQ Issues and Art Now, the first LGBTQ-themed museum exhibition in Asia curated by Sean C. S. Hu and staged at Taipei’s Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in 2017… launched just as the High Court in Taiwan paved the way for the legalisation of same-sex marriage, presenting 51 works created by 22 artists from Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, and Singapore, over 50 years, from Tseng Kwong Chi to Samson Young and Wu Tsang.” (via Ocula Magazine)