Tchif Tchiakpe

Painter | Benin

Tchif (aka Francis Nicaise Tchiakpe) is an experimental colorist pur sang. In his abstract expressionist  ‘total’ compositions, he explores freely various mediums such as acrylic, oil, pigments, ink and collage with textile fibers, paper or any other materials on canvas.  His works emerge in various organic layers to which he adds his own symbolic language. That results in beautiful  color compositions, full of nuance, movement and depth, estranged dream worlds in which there is a lot to discover.

Photo by Louise Melchers

“I want to show the ferocity and
enigmatic beauty of life.
Like the late Chinese painter Zao Woo-ki,
  in this fusion of materials and colors,
  I want to rather paint what you can sense but not see: the breath of life, the wind,
the movement”



Tchif (1973, Cotonou), also known as Francis Nicaise Tchiakpe, has been drawing and painting since the early age of 10. As most artists in Benin, he has developed himself as an autodidact. Starting off as a caricaturist for newspaper ‘La Nation’, he soon expanded his world of ink on paper and photography with painting on canvas,  experimenting with different mediums. From early on he managed a successful independent art practice, exhibiting his first solo when he was only 21, crossing over to Europe the year after.

Tchif is an experimental colorist pur sang. In his abstract expressionist  ‘total’ compositions, he explores freely various mediums such as acrylic, oil, natural pigments, ink and collage with textile fibers, paper or any other materials on canvas. His works emerge in various organic layers to which he adds his own symbolic language. Tchif: “I work barefoot on the ground. On the ground, I feel more comfortable. I feel closer to the painting, I am part of it. Sometimes I trample my works, to ‘tan’ them”. 

That results in beautiful colour compositions in red ochres, blues, yellows, and other earthy colors, full of nuance, movement and depth. Estranged dream worlds in which there is a lot to discover. In Tchif’s world, life itself unfolds, centered around man and his relationship with the universe around him. A world full of movement, bright and dark sides, plunging depths, intriguing symbols and lines as cryptic indications of the complex laws that govern life: the cross represents suffering; the circle, the continuity of man; the zigzags, the joys and difficulties of life. Lines representing the random traces living species left behind, like compressed visualised poems adrift in the atmosphere, questioning life itself

Firmly rooted and based in Cotonou/Benin, Tchif has built up an impressive artistic career over the years. He belongs to the national top of the contemporary art scene in Benin, where he is recognised as a permanent artist of the National Gallery – Contemporary Benin. 

He is also well recognised internationally and has participated in numerous solo and group exhibitions around the world. He not only exhibited in a wide range of countries on the African continent, such as Nigeria, Togo, Burkina Fasso, Niger, Mali, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Guinea and Morocco, but also way beyond in US, Brazil, Venezuela, Japan and across Europe in France, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Switzerland and Portugal. 

His works are included in various professional collections and have been shown in several musea in Benin, US, Brazil, France and Belgium, a.o. the prestigious National museum for African art  Smithsonian in Washington. 

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Solo exhibitions


AFRICA through ART INITIATIVE, Edge of Gallery, Tokyo, Japan

AFRICA through ART INITIATIVE, Zou no Hana terrace, Yokohama, Japan


Collection “Africa my name’s Job”, Cotonou, Benin


Pointe à pitre, Guadeloupe

Galerie Fremeaux, Vincennes, France

Galerie Vallois, Paris


“Eau, Feu et Terre”, Barcelona, Spain


Exposition Zik Zac Festival, Aix en Provence, France

Inauguration Galerie Tempo, Marseille, France

Galerie Omenka, Lagos, Nigeria

Mode is ART, Cotonou, Benin


Expositie Résidence d’artiste, Kourou, Guyane


Foot Culture – Installations photos, Espace Tchif,  Cotonou, Benin


Galerie Cardinal, Ajaccio, Corsica


Exposition « Musée des Arts Derniers », Paris, France


Galerie Alizé, Brussels, Belgium

Galerie Huijs Basten, Asbeck-Groenlo, Nederland


IESA, Paris, France


Galerie Regards, Croisés, Paris, France

Galerie d’art contemporain, Isle-sur-Sorgue, France


Elf Village, Port Harcourt, Nigeria


« Visages d’Afrique », Galerie ABC, Dijon, France

« Autocritique », Centre Culturel Français, Cotonou, Benin


Galerie Espace Rivage, Paris, France

« Rêve d’un marabout », Ambassade de France, Cotonou, Benin


MJC, Vieux Lyon, France


GTZ, Cotonou, Benin


« Zemidjans », Galerie l’Atelier, Cotonou, Benin

Group exhibitions

Révélation ! Art Contemporain du Bénin, Martinique
Art du Bénin, D’hier et d’Aujourd’hui : De La Restitution à la Révélation,
Musée Mohammed VI, Rabat, Maroc
DAF Frankfurt via OpenArtExchange, Frankfurt, Germany
Art The Hague via OpenArtExchange, The Hague, Netherlands
Africa Now II, OpenArtExchange, Schiedam (Rotterdam) – The Netherlands
Essence et résilience, Dak’Art biennale OFF, Dakar, Senegal
Dyptique, Le Présidence du Benin, Cotonou, Benin
Regards D’afrique, Conakry, Guinée

Art du Bénin, D’hier et d’Aujourd’hui : De La Restitution à la Révélation,
Présidence de la République, Cotonou, Bénin


« Contemporary Bénin», Abidjan, Ivory Coast

Expo Sobebra for 60 years independence of Benin


ART PARIS 2018, Paris, France

1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair Marrakech 2018, Morocco

ViewPoints on Africa’s Arts Washington. Washington DC, USA


AKAA Paris 2017, Paris, France


Art fair PARIS, Paris, France

Centre d’art contemporain de Tanlay, France

So art et design, Megève, France

Carte et identité cloitre des billettes, Paris, France


Art St Germain des Près, galerie Vallois, Paris, France


Art fair DUBAI 2014, Dubai, UAE

Monumental Africa-Maestri d’Africa in terra d’Umbria_Centro Espositivo Rocca Paolina Perugia, Italy

Earth day Fowler Museum, Los Angeles, USA

Koton’oo Dak’ART OFF, Galerie Arte, Dakar, Senegal 

Fleuve en couleurs, Saint-louis, Senegal

Vivres Domaine de chamarande, Essonne, France

Africa-Africans, Museum Afro-Brasil, Sao Paolo, Brasil


Blank Canvas, Art Twenty One, Lagos, Nigeria


Earth Matters, National Museum of African Art / Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC, USA

2012 & 2010

Biennale Bénin, Cotonou, Bénin


Africa ancestral e contemporanea, Centro municipal de Arte Helio Citica, Rio de Janeiro, Brasil


« O Benin está ainda là », Museum Afro-Brasil, São Paulo, Brasil

Créafrique 3 Méjannes, Le Clap, France

Expresiones Africanas “Fondation Daniel Suarez”, Caracas, Vénézuéla

Espace d’art, Centre culturel Jacques Brel, Thionville, France

2ème Salon d’Art Contemporain, Brussels,  Belgium

Bénin Corps et Ame, Multimedia library, Melun, France

Fondation Zinsou, Cotonou, Bénin

Un monde “Toucouleur”, Espace Landowski, Boulogne Billancourt, France


Institut des Etudes d’Afrique – Leiden – Pays Bas

Afriques, Espaces Humanités – Paris – France


Den Haag, Galerie Chiefs and Spirits – La Haye – Pays Bas


FIAD, Les Afriques – Musée des Arts Derniers – Paris – France

Biennale d’art contemporain – Louvain-la-Neuve – Belgique

« Africas », Galerie Raquel Arnaud – Sao Paulo – Brésil


Sélection officielle « Dak’art 2002 », Biennale d’art contemporain, Dakar, Senegal

Musée d’Art Moderne de l’ULB, Brussels,  Belgium

Exposition collective 8 artistes – Pontigny – France


« Tchif, Quenum, Zinkpè, 3 jeunes béninois », traveling exposition in Benin, Niger, Burkina, Faso,Mali, Togo, Ghana and Ivory Coast.

Foire internationale d’Art Plastique, Abidjan,  Ivory Coast


« L’harmattan 2000 », 1er salon béninois d’Art Contemporain, Cotonou, Benin


Pierre Galerie, Paris, France

Exposition Boulev’ard, Cotonou, Benin

Alliance Française, Lagos, Nigeria


« Comme dirait l’autre », Biennale d’Art contemporain OFF, Lyon, France

« Zeitgenossische kunst aus Africa », Frankfurt, Germany

« Mémoire d’esclave », Genève, Switzerland


« Contre le G7 », Galerie Chomarat, Lyon, France


ABC Expo, CCF, Cotonou, Benin


Tchif’s work is regularly shown in collective exhibitions of Galerie Vallois Paris and is included in various  professional collections, such as: 

  • National Gallery Benin (permanent artist Contemporary Benin)
  • Vallois (France)
  • Leridon (France)
  • Zinsou (Benin)
  • Blachère (France)
  • Smithsonian Museum Washington (US)
His works have been exhibited in various museums internationally, a.o. at:
  • Fowler museum. Los Angelos, US
  • Museum Afro-Brasil, Sao Paulo, Brasil
  • National museum for African Art Smithsonian in Washington, US
  • Musées des Arts Derniers, Paris, France
  • Musée d’Art Moderne de l’ULB, Brussels, Belgium
Tchif has been auctioned in the past at Drouot, Ferri and Millon & Associes in Paris