ZAO WOU-KI (ZHAO WUJI, 1920-2013)
ZAO WOU-KI (ZHAO WUJI, 1920-2013)
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ZAO WOU-KI (ZHAO WUJI, 1920-2013)


ZAO WOU-KI (ZHAO WUJI, 1920-2013)
signed in Chinese, signed ‘ZAO’ (lower right); signed, titled and dated ‘ZAO WOU-KI 25.5.2001. 146 cm x 114 cm. (PAV)’ (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
146.5 x 115 cm. (57 5⁄8 x 45 1⁄4 in.)
Painted in 2001
Marlborough Gallery, New York
Private Collection, Asia
Shanghai Tianheng Auction, 28 June 2011, lot 616
Private Collection, Asia
Ravenel, Taipei, 2 June 2019, lot 233
Private Collection, Asia

This work is referenced in the archive of the Fondation Zao Wou-Ki and will be included in the artist's forthcoming catalogue raisonne
prepared by Francoise Marquet and Yann Hendgen (Information provided by Fondation Zao Wou-Ki).
Marlborough Gallery, Zao Wou-Ki Recent Work, New York, 2003 (illustrated, p.17).
New York, Marlborough Gallery, Zao Wou-Ki Recent Work, 30 April – 24 May, 2003.
Sale room notice
Please note that Lot 340(Zao Wou-Ki)which was not marked with a symbol in the catalogue, is now subject to a minimum price guarantee. The minimum price guarantee of this lot has been financed by a third-party who may be bidding on this lot and may receive a financing fee from Christie’s if the third-party is not the successful buyer.
請注意在拍賣目錄中未注以符號的編號為340 (Zao Wou-Ki 趙無極) 的拍賣品現有最低出售價保證;並將由可能會參與此拍賣品競投的第三方提供,且該第三方如不是最終買方,將可能會收到由佳士得支付的酬金。

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Lot Essay

In 2003, Zao Wou-ki held an exhibition, "Zao Wou-ki: Recent Works" at the Marlborough Gallery in New York, and an album of the same name was published; 25.5.2001 made its debut at that exhibition. American art critic Jonathan Hay, discussing Zao Wou-ki's paintings, said: "Faithful to a fundamental Chinese aesthetic assumption, he paints an experience of the world in which he himself is implicated; the world he summons up is never entirely separate from him. For this reason his paintings can always be read in two directions, either as evocations of the macrocosmic environments of experience, or as articulations of a deeply private emotional topography."

Throughout his life, Zao Wou-ki never limited his art to merely expressing "likenesses" or "simulations of nature." Instead, he saw the changes in nature and expressed them as space, movement, vital energy, and spirit. The artistic development and fusion of all the life and colour within things led him to the opening of a new realm, wherein the myriad changes of the universe are revealed. Never content to rest satisfied with the success he achieved in any environment or any stage of his career, Zao Wouki always sought to surpass himself and achieve new breakthroughs, pushing past achievements or frameworks already established in the past. Thus, during his nearly 70-year career, his artistic language evolved in connected stages, in a journey of the spirit that took him from his origins in the East, to establishing himself artistically in the West, and finally, to a return to the East.

Zao Wou-ki's 25.5.2001, dating from 2001, can be seen as an ideal exemplification of one stage in this journey of the spirit. Standing before this work, we are met with a kind of gentle, rhythmic energy and the rich visual experience of its subtle gradations of colour. The various hues of the painting, soft and elegant, are like a breeze flowing through a valley, and the clear voice of a dream; the lightly fluttering, dancing lines at each side inject boundless exuberance and movement into the painting. Yellow and green tones, making up the main colour palette, intermix with a wash of indigo at the bottom, touches of pink near the center, and the nearly transparent turquoise and white in the distance; the joyful rhythms of life begin to unfold, projecting an aura of nature and its energy and a sense of flowing, agile movement.

The aesthetics of Eastern lines and the pictographic symbols of antiquity were two of the most arresting features of Zao Wou-ki's creative work in the 1950s. Those linear symbols, only half emerging from the background, floated between heaven earth, becoming lighter or heavier, or clearer or more obscure, depending on the light and shadow of the painting. They became Zao's central aesthetic motif, a motif created out of a union of Western abstraction with aesthetics of a more Eastern origin. Up until about 2000, Zao Wou-ki had been roaming at will in this limitless world, free of time and space; in this 25.5.2001, his coloristic spaces are transformed. This work is conceived as an open, ethereal and beautiful space, wherein those indistinct lines suggest the outlines of a mountain chain or upward-reaching branches, moving in rhythm, blooming, and spreading. A visual manifestation of the artist's quiet, happy frame of mind in his later years, 25.5.2001 is also a portrait of his lifetime of memories. As the noted Swiss author Jacques Chessex wrote, "Here, a kind of unbelievable meditation on the sublimation of things occurs and develops into fullness, as the space within the painting brings forth a delightful, sweet spectacle. While no human figure appears in it, the painting coalesces into a kind of highly concentrated power that connects in our minds with aspects of humanity, with the memories of the artist, and all of his past experiences of both the ordinary and of beauty in its perfection."

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