chin(A)frica: an interface

Image: He Xiangyu, Wuqiao, 2018


Duke House Exhibition Series Fall 2017

Institute of Fine Arts, New York University

James B. Duke House

1 East 78th Street

October 18, 2017- February 18, 2018

The fall Duke House Exhibition, chin(A)frica: an interface, investigates new parameters in which identity, geopolitics, and otherness are re-formulated through expansive exchanges between China and African countries over the past decade. The exhibition features works by four artists, two Chinese and two African nationals, who have reflected upon recent cross-continental relations and immigration. Held in the James B. Duke House, where the Institute of Fine Arts is located, the exhibition plays off the building’s historical significance, decorative and architectural style, and the Institute’s engagement with art historical discourses.

The exhibition features a still from Hu Xiangqian’s video The Sun (2008), a work inspired by the unprecedented presence of African immigrants in the southern Chinese city Guangzhou, where the artist was trained for many years. In it, the artist tans himself to darken his skin, a gesture that suggests the blurred distinctions between conceptions of blackness and the Asian other. The work contrasts with another performance in the series, Self Portrait as Mao Zedong (2013), by the Cameroonian artist Samuel Fosso. Fosso transforms himself to enact several iconic portraits of Mao, his facial features coupling with dissonant elements such as a red armband reading “Africa.” The series conjures up a Mao who oscillates between an inspiration for liberation movements in the “Global South” and an embodiment of a new, quasi-colonial ambition.

The exhibition also includes works by artists He Xiangyu and Edson Chagas. In his half-fictional, half-documentary video work Wuqiao (2018), He Xiangyu follows a group of young Africans recruited to learn acrobatic skills in a famous circus town near Beijing. The work explores their training, integration, and religious practices, as well as the cultural and social mechanisms that led to their displacement. The Oikonomos series (2011) by Angolan artist Chagas presents self-portraits in which the artist’s face is completely covered by a variety of packaging materials bearing lingumarkers of commercial entities present in Angola–such as one from a Chinese fertilizing company.

chin(A)frica: an interface juxtaposes contemporary art practices from China and Africa in order to explore contested issues like identity and race by incorporating a geopolitical context not directly mediated by the West, nor dictated by its colonial legacy. The exhibition is accompanied by a round table discussion and a screening program that seeks to challenge conventional debates on identity politics and self-representation from and beyond these bilateral positions.

Organized by Duke House Exhibition 2017-2018 curators Xin Wang and Megan Ashley DiNoia.


Edson Chagas (b. 1977) was born in Luanda, Angola. He studied photography at the University of Wales in Newport (2008); London College of Communication (2007); Portugal’s Escola Técnica de Imagem e Comunicação (2002), and Centro Comunitário de Arcena (1999). In 2013, his Found Not Taken series was exhibited in Luanda, Encyclopedic City, the Angolan Pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennale, winning the Golden Lion for best national pavilion. Solo exhibitions worldwide have taken place at the Kunst Haus Wien, Museum Hundertwasser in Vienna (2016); Instituto Camões – Centro Cultural Português, Luanda (2014); and Memorial Agostinho Neto, Luanda (2013). Notable group exhibitions include Recent Histories – New African Photography at the Walther Collection in Ulm (2017); Disguise: Masks and Global African Art at Seattle Art Museum (2015-16); and Ocean of Images, Museum of Modern Art, New York (2015).

Samuel Fosso’s (b. 1962) self-portraits have been featured in seminal exhibitions including In/sight: African Photographers, 1940 to the Present, The Short Cen-tury: Independence and Liberation Movements in Africa, 1945-1994, Africa Remix: Contemporary Art of a Continent, and Events of the Self: Portraiture and Social Identity–Photography from The Walther Collection. Fosso was born in Cameroon and now lives and works in Bangui, Central African Republic and Paris, France.

He Xiangyu (b. 1986) is a Chinese artist based in Berlin. He was named as a finalist for the “Future Generation Art Prize” (2014), and won the 10th CCAA “Best Young Artist” Award (2016) as well as the “ARTNET Emerging Artist Prize” (2016). Recent exhibitions include: Tales of Our Time Film Program (Screening of the film The Swim), Guggenheim Museum New York, New York (2017); Soil and Stones, Souls and Songs by Kadist Art Foundation (2016-2018); Juxtapoz x Superflat, Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver (2016); Chinese Whispers, Paul Klee Zentrum, Kunstmuseum Bern, Bern (2016); Lyon Biennale (2015); Fire and Forget: On Violence, KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin (2015); Shanghai Biennale (2014); Yokohama Triennale (2014); and Busan Biennale (2014).

Hu Xiangqian (b. 1983) was born in Leizhou, Guangdong Province and graduated in 2007 from Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts. His performances arise from engagements with his immediate surroundings, his intuition, and his artistic contemplation of what it means to be an artist. His work highlights the contrasts in our society and amplifies minor incidents into major social signifiers. Notable exhibitions include the Gwangju Biennial (2014) and the Shanghai Biennial (2016). The artist lives and works between Beijing and New York.

in modern and contemporary art at the Institute of Fine Arts, NYU.

Past curatorial projects include: special exhibitions researcher for The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s exhibition Ink Art: Past as Present in Contemporary China (2013); Asian Contemporary Art Week 2014 for which she co-curated the inaugural edition of its signature program FIELD MEETING; the panel “Magiciens de la Terre and China: Looking Back 25 Years” co-organized with Asia Art Archive at Columbia University; the New York solo debut of artist Lu Yang (2014); exhibition series THE BANK SHOW: Vive le Capital and THE BANK SHOW: Hito Steyerl (2015) in Shanghai; Life and Dreams: Photography and Media Art in China since 1990s at the Walther Collection in Ulm, Germany. Her writing has appeared on exhibition catalogues and publications such as E-flux, Artforum, Kaleidoscope, Art in America, Flash Art, Hyperallergic, and Leap. She is currently building a discursive archive of Asian futurisms in contemporary art practice at

Megan DiNoia is currently pursuing her M.A. at the Institute of Fine Arts, NYU. She is the managing editor of IFAcontemporary, the Institute’s online contemporary art publication. Most recently, she participated in the NYU Curatorial Collaborative, curating 11:30 playdate at 80WSE Gallery, which featured works by NYU Steinhardt honors studio artists. She has also held internships at the Guggenheim Museum, assisting with the recent Peter Fischli David Weiss exhibition, as well as with Artbook D.A.P., researching and copywriting for their upcoming catalogue.

Marc Patras (Paris), Long March Space (Beijing), STEVENSON (Johannesburg), and White Space (Beijing) with additional production support from Cloud Gallery, New York. Special thanks go to Sarah Higby, Director of Development and Public Affairs; Sophie Phoenix Lo, Manager of Public Programming and Special Events; Robert Slifkin, Associate Professor of Fine Arts; Conservation Graduate Students Emma Kimmel and Kristin Holder; and the Board of Trustees of the Institute of Fine Arts.

The Duke House Exhibition Series was begun in 2016 to bring contemporary art to the walls of the landmarked James B. Duke House in the form of two exhibitions per year. The work is displayed in the Gilded Age interior of the former residence of the Duke family, juxtaposing the historic with the contemporary and inviting viewers to engage with both the past and the future of the Institute.

Visit the Institute online for more information.

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Installation shots:

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