Lot 511
  • 511

Zao Wou-Ki (Zhao Wuji)

4,000,000 - 6,000,000 HKD
4,280,000 HKD
bidding is closed


  • Zao Wou-Ki (Zhao Wuji)
  • 06.03.63
  • signed in Pinyin and Chinese; signed in Pinyin, titled and dated 6.3.63 on the reverse
  • oil on canvas
  • 65 by 100 cm, 25 5/8  by 39 3/8  in.


Galerie de France, Paris
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1964

Catalogue Note

“I paint my own life but I also try to paint an invisible place, that of dreams, somewhere where one feels in perfect harmony, even in the midst of agitated shapes or opposing forces. Every picture, from the smallest to the biggest, is always a fragment of that dream place.”
Zao Wou-Ki

By the end of the 1950s, Zao Wou-Ki was already moving away from his Oracle-Bone period and starting to pursue pure abstraction to develop a unique style of art with its roots in Chinese culture. From 1959 to 1960, he delved even more deeply into the study of space and composition, striving for further breakthrough in his artistic career. In 1960, his paintings began to exhibit his special “three-section composition.” In 06.03.63, Zao reduced the number of colours he used, rendering black in the middle and bright colour in the top and bottom sections. It was as if the center was endlessly squeezing and contracting, while giving off new life. Primarily composed of white, beige and black, the light colours in 06.03.63 serve the most important role and open up a contrasting void that liberates the painting from its dimensional boundaries as well as create a sense of harmony. The thickest area of accumulated and energetic black brushstrokes, concentrated in the center of the canvas, seems to correspond to Zao’s imaginary and mysterious universe with infinite arena and vitality. In the classical period, the West believed that universe was a closed space ruled by God, but in the eyes of the Chinese people, the natural world which produced all things was not a one-point perspective space, but a world which permeated and expanded outwards infinitely. Just as the French critic Philippe Dagen observed, “In Zao Wou Ki’s 1960s works, space seemed to open out and expand… regardless of the laws of gravity. The laws of perspective were no longer valid.” In 06.03.63, the arrangement of empty space and beautiful black calligraphic lines evoke a misty and expansive valley extending into the distance, reminiscent of Song Dynasty painter Ma Yuan’s Landscape and Figure. Viewers can also tell that the artist’s strokes were drawn consistently without stopping or hesitation with a vivid rhythm, demonstrating Zao’s confident mastery of Chinese painting technique.

Acquired directly from Galerie de France by the present owner in 1964, 06.03.63 has been kept in a private European collection for over 50 years. Now, for the first time, the owner is willing to part with it. This is a rare opportunity for collectors to acquire an exquisite and important work from Zao Wou-Ki’s oeuvre.