Cao Fei

Apr 3–Aug 30, 2016


MoMA PS1 presents the first museum solo show in the United States of Beijing-based artist Cao Fei. One of the most innovative young artists to have emerged from China, Cao Fei creates multimedia projects that explore the experiences of young Chinese citizens as they develop strategies for overcoming and escaping the realities of a rapidly changing society. Mixing social commentary, pop aesthetics, references to Surrealism, and documentary conventions in her films and installations, the artist reflects on the swift and chaotic changes occurring in Chinese society.

The interplay between fantasy and reality animates much of the artist’s work. In COSPlayers (2004), a work comprised of video and photography, the artist embedded in Chinese cosplay communities, groups of young people that gather to dress up as imaginary Japanese anime characters. In wild and complex outfits, they romp around the artist's hometown of Guangzhou, a city known less for its imaginative character than for its industrial manufacturing. In RMB City (2007) the artist worked through an avatar named China Tracy, spending several years developing a virtual city in the online role-playing game Second Life, combining what the artist terms “overabundant symbols of Chinese reality with cursory imaginings of the country’s future.” The result is a Technicolor playground of floating architectural icons and aerial shopping malls bedecked with Mao statues. In her video Whose Utopia? (2006), workers at a lighting factory wildly role-play their own personal fantasies—dancing or playing guitar—within their mundane industrial environment. In all of these works, by collapsing extreme versions of the everyday and the fantastical into one, the artist is able to vividly underscore the interior and exterior worlds of global, digital citizens navigating extreme change. The presentation at MoMA PS1 presents a summary of the artist’s work to date across a range of mediums, including video, photography, sculpture and installation, and takes place in MoMA PS1’s First Floor Main Galleries.

Cao Fei (b. 1978, Guangzhou) recently had a solo exhibition at Secession Museum, Vienna (2015). Her work La Town (2014) was on display in the Arsenale Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale, as part of All the World’s Future. Whose Utopia? (2006) was screened in Poetry and Dream, Tate Modern. Her online project RMB City (2008–11) has been exhibited in Deutsche Guggenheim (2010); Shiseido Gallery, Tokyo, Japan (2009); Serpentine Gallery, London (2008); and the Yokohama Triennale (2008). She also exhibited video works at the Guggenheim Museum, the International Center of Photography, MoMA, MoMA PS1 (New York) and Palais de Tokyo (Paris). Cao Fei was a nominee for the Future Generation Art Prize 2010, a finalist for the Hugo Boss Prize 2010, and winner of the 2006 Best Young Artist from the Chinese Contemporary Art Awards (CCAA).

Organized by Klaus Biesenbach, Director, MoMA PS1, and Chief Curator at Large, The Museum of Modern Art, with Jocelyn Miller, Curatorial Associate, MoMA PS1.

The exhibition is made possible by Jerry I. Speyer and Katherine G. Farley.

Major support for the exhibition is provided by New Century Art Foundation, and The International Council of The Museum of Modern Art.


Installation images

How we identified these works

In 2018–19, MoMA collaborated with Google Arts & Culture Lab on a project using machine learning to identify artworks in installation photos. That project has concluded, and works are now being identified by MoMA staff.

If you notice an error, please contact us at [email protected].


If you would like to reproduce an image of a work of art in MoMA’s collection, or an image of a MoMA publication or archival material (including installation views, checklists, and press releases), please contact Art Resource (publication in North America) or Scala Archives (publication in all other geographic locations).

MoMA licenses archival audio and select out of copyright film clips from our film collection. At this time, MoMA produced video cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. All requests to license archival audio or out of copyright film clips should be addressed to Scala Archives at [email protected]. Motion picture film stills cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. For access to motion picture film stills for research purposes, please contact the Film Study Center at [email protected]. For more information about film loans and our Circulating Film and Video Library, please visit

If you would like to reproduce text from a MoMA publication, please email [email protected]. If you would like to publish text from MoMA’s archival materials, please fill out this permission form and send to [email protected].


This record is a work in progress. If you have additional information or spotted an error, please send feedback to [email protected].