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Tseng Kwong Chi

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Tseng Kwong Chi
Disneyland, California, from the series East Meets West (1979) at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in 2023
Joseph Tseng

(1950-09-06)September 6, 1950
DiedMarch 10, 1990(1990-03-10) (aged 39)
Manhattan, New York City, United States
Years active1979–1989
Notable workEast Meets West
Websitetsengkwongchi.com Edit this at Wikidata

Tseng Kwong Chi, known as Joseph Tseng prior to his professional career[1] (Chinese: 曾廣智; September 6, 1950 – March 10, 1990), was a Hong Kong-born American photographer who was active in the East Village[1] art scene in the 1980s. He is the brother of dancer/choreographer Muna Tseng.


Tseng was part of a circle of artists in the 1980s New York art scene including Keith Haring, Kenny Scharf and Cindy Sherman.[2]

Tseng's most famous body of work is his self-portrait series, East Meets West, also called the "Expeditionary Series". In the series, Tseng dressed in what he called his "Mao suit" and sunglasses (dubbed a "wickedly surrealistic persona"[1] by The New York Times) and photographed himself situated, often emotionlessly, in front of iconic tourist sites. These included the Statue of Liberty, Cape Canaveral, Disneyland,[1] Notre-Dame de Paris, and the World Trade Center.

Tseng also took over 40,000 of photographs of New York graffiti artist Keith Haring[3] throughout the 1980s working on murals, installations and the subway.[4] In 1984, his photographs were shown with Haring's work at the opening of the Semaphore Gallery East location in a show titled "Art in Transit". Tseng photographed[when?] the first Concorde landing at John F. Kennedy International Airport, from the tarmac.[1] According to his sister, Tseng drew artistic influence from Brassaï and Henri Cartier-Bresson.[1]


Tseng's father was a Kuomintang officer who fled Shanghai in 1949 when the Communists won the Chinese Civil War.[5] Tseng was born in British Hong Kong the following year[5] and was a child prodigy in Chinese painting and calligraphy.[1] He was educated at St Joseph's College[5] before his parents moved the family to Canada when he was 16.[5] He originally studied painting at Académie Julian in Paris,[6] but switched to photography after one year,[1] having gained an interest photography after his father gave him a Rolleiflex camera.[5] He moved to Manhattan's East Village in 1979,[3][5] where he soon met fellow avant-garde artists Haring,[3][5] Scharf,[3][5] Jean-Michel Basquiat,[5] and Ann Magnuson.[3]

Tseng started documenting Haring's work through photograph in 1979, travelling with him from 1982-1989, expanding his own East Meets West series.[7]

Tseng died of AIDS-related illness in 1990,[4][8] and was survived by his companion of seven years, Robert-Kristoffer Haynes, who remains a resident of New York City[as of?] and serves as Registrar at Paula Cooper Gallery.[as of?] Tseng's work is in the public collection of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.[9] Tseng has been included in the Asian American Arts Centre's digital archive.[10]


  • Chi, Tseng Kwong & Richard Martin, Tseng Kwong Chi (Kyoto Shoin International Co., Ltd / Art Random, Kyoto, Japan, 1990)
  • Tseng Kwong Chi, Ambiguous Ambassador (Nazraeli Press, 2005)
  • Cameron, Dan & Wei, Lily, Tseng Kwong Chi: Self Portraits 1979-1989 (Ben Brown Fine Arts & Paul Kasmin Gallery, 2008)
  • Kwong Chi Tseng, Tseng Kwong Chi, Citizen of the World (Ben Brown Fine Arts Hong Kong, 2014)
  • Chi, Tseng Kwong, Amy Brandt, Alexandra Chang, Lynn Gumpert, Joshua Takano Chambers-Letson, Muna Tseng, Tseng Kwong Chi: Performing For the Camera (Chrysler Museum of Art, Grey Art Gallery, New York University in association with Lyons Artbooks, 2015)


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Loke, Margarett (October 18, 1996). "Inside Photography". The New York Times. p. 36. Retrieved March 10, 2014. To complete the image, he dropped the name he had always used, Joseph, and began using his Chinese name, Kwong Chi. And he insisted on the traditional last-name-first sequence, as in Mao Zedong.
  2. ^ "Tseng Kwong Chi". Ben Brown Fine Arts. Retrieved September 19, 2015.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Tseng Kwong Chi". Visual AIDS. 2014. Retrieved December 31, 2023.
  4. ^ a b "Tseng Kwong Chi, Photographer, 39". The New York Times. March 11, 1990. p. 36. Archived from the original on June 28, 2010. Retrieved March 10, 2014.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i 【顯影】當東方符號遇上西方地標 [When Eastern symbols meet Western landmarks]. Apple Daily (in Chinese (Hong Kong)). January 15, 2020. Archived from the original on January 25, 2021. Retrieved December 31, 2023.
  6. ^ "TSENG Kwong Chi: Biography" (PDF). Muna Tseng. Retrieved December 31, 2023.
  7. ^ Haring, Keith; Tseng, Muna; Tseng, Kwong Chi; Blinderman, Barry; Schunck*, eds. (2022). Keith Haring, Muna Tseng & Tseng Kwong Chi: boundless minds & moving bodies in 80's New York. Rotterdam: nai010 publishers. ISBN 978-94-6208-696-8.
  8. ^ Kelley Kara Hallmark (2007). Encyclopedia of Asian American Artists. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 229. ISBN 9780313334511.
  9. ^ "Photos by Tseng Kwong Chi with Keith Haring at Paul Kasmin Gallery". artdaily.com. 2014. Retrieved March 10, 2014.
  10. ^ "Tseng, Kwong Chi". Asian American Arts Centre.

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