Lot 1018
  • 1018

Zao Wou-Ki (Zhao Wuji)

12,000,000 - 18,000,000 HKD
13,280,000 HKD
bidding is closed


  • Zao Wou-Ki (Zhao Wuji)
  • 19.06.97
  • signed in Pinyin and Chinese; signed in Pinyin, titled, dated 19.6.97 on the reverse

  • oil on canvas
  • 114 by 195 cm.;   44 7/8 by 76 3/4  in. 
Galerie Thessa Herold, Paris, and IVAM Centre Julio González, Valencia labels affixed to the stretcher on the reverse 


Galeria Thessa Herold, Paris
Hopkins Custot Gallery, London
Acquired directly from the above by the important private Swiss collector in 2012


Paris, Galerie Thessa Herold, Zao Wou-Ki, 1997
Madrid, Galerie Thessa Herold, Zao Wou-Ki, 1998, p.40
Shanghai, Shanghai Museum of Fine Arts, Zao Wou-Ki: 60 ans de peintures 1935-1998, 4 November 1998 – 31 January 1999, p. 267
Beijing, National Art Museum of China, Zao Wou-Ki: 60 ans de peintures 1935-1998, 1 – 31 March 1999, p. 267
Guangzhou, Guandong Museum of Art, Zao Wou-Ki: 60 ans de peintures 1935-1998, April 1999, p. 267
Valencia, Institut Valencià d'Art Modern Centre Julio González, Zao Wou-Ki, 3 May – 1 July 2001, p. 70
Brussels, Musée d’Ixelles, Zao Wou-Ki, September 2001, p. 70

Catalogue Note

“In the composition, it seems that the Chinese elements reappear as well. They can be found in the arrangement of the plastic components; in the placement of the void in the centre of the canvas, free of confining edges; in the fact that although the work is contracted over an opposition between plentitude and vacuity, between the roughness, the weight, the darkness, the pungent, the massive—represented by the mountain, the rocks, the earth in classical Chinese painting—and the effusion, the haze, the breathe of life—represented in the Chinese tradition by restless waters, the sky, the clouds and the mist, such opposition still conveys a sense of harmony thanks to the balance maintained between all of the confronting components.

Georges Duby, member of Académie française

19.06.97 by Zao Wou-Ki

Wild Waves and Billowing Tides: Half of a Century in France

It was on April 1, 1948 that Zao Wou-Ki first stepped onto French soil. He made the journey on the Andre Lebon, a boat that had once carried the artist’s own mentor Lin Fengmian across the same waters. The  years passed quickly, by 1994, Zao was awarded with the Praemium Imperiale Award for Painting, bestowed by the imperial family of Japan, as invitations from various world-class international institutions rushed in. The year 1997 marked 50 years of the artist’s life in France, this half-century of experience a thrilling journey, accompanied by peaks and troughs. Zao, consistently, with magnanimous spirit and wisdom, converted these experiences into the resplendent colours upon the canvas, evident in 19.06.97.

The Manifold Faces of the Universe in Past and Present and in the Reaches of Every Corner

For Zao, 1997 was not only a year for reflecting upon the past, but it also marked a period of great activity and travel for the artist. In 1996, the Hong Kong Museum of Arts hosted the exhibition Infinite Image and Space—A Retrospective of Zao Wou-Ki, for which Académie française member George Duby and the Paris Museum of Modern Art’s Chief Curator Daniel Marchesseau composed the foreword. In the same year, Zao accompanied French President Jacques Chirac on an official visit to China. An appreciator of Chinese culture, Chirac, while serving as Mayor of Paris, had already forged a deep friendship with the artist, and on this trip, the president made a special visit to the Shanghai Museum with Zao. It was then that the artist was invited by the museum’s chief curator and esteemed heritage expert Ma Chengyuan to hold a 60-years retrospective exhibition across Beijing, Shanghai, and Canton in 1998. The 80s marked a career summit in the artist’s journey back to the East, while at the same time, his activity in the West did not diminish. To commemorate his 50 years in France, Galerie Thessa Herold held a solo exhibition for the artist, and in the following year, held yet another exhibition for him at Madrid. Chosen for the above important solo exhibitions in Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, Paris and Madrid, 19.06.97’s boundless atmosphere, seemingly echoes the distance of the artist’s travels around the world. The graceful powder blue leads the prodigious space, its communication of vastness seemingly superior to the dimensions of the movie screen. The abstract composition, with its feeling of depth, conjures the famous image of the Northern Song artist’s Thousand Miles of Landscape.

Splendours of Brilliant Colour: Composing the Charm of Song

By the time he created 19.06.97, Zao was already into his later years, yet his energy for creation had not receded in the slightest. When he was not on the road, he entered the studio at nine a.m. every morning, working until sundown. The artist confronted the giant canvas with great confidence and vigour, delighting in the challenge. The dimensions of 19.06.97 are identical to that of another Zao Wou-Ki painting, 07.04.61, which is offered in this season. Through decades of examination and refinement, the artist never tired of the canvas; on the contrary, through the accumulation of experience and wisdom, he became enlightened to entirely different creative techniques. 07.04.61, which also features a centre split, clearly centralizes the force of the painting at the centre, like a bolt of lighting, reflecting the artist’s passion, bursting forth, his battle with the palette knife and canvas. Yet 19.06.97, which separates with a horizontal axis, conveys a sense of harmony and delicate charm. The canvas is split into top and bottom parts, seemingly suffused with the elegant charm and poetry of Jiangnan scenery, the limpid mountains and water resonating off of each other. The indigo in the upper right corner is rendered like the splash in traditional Chinese painting, crisp and bright, yet rife with visual tension. The lines created by the artist’s former brush, resembling grass had grown bold and untameable, had been transformed into the dense and heavy specks of colour-dyed clouds, creating an effect that seemingly presents before the viewer a comprehensible scene, only then to have it elude the gaze, spurring the viewer to acknowledge the absence of the scene as even more powerful. The composition is infused with the ingenuity of Chinese painting, yet inclines toward the abstract. It is the intersection of East and West in Zao Wou-Ki’s spiritual world, reflecting his unfettered calm, his feelings of self-composed joy.