The renowned Chinese-French writer Françoise Cheng once said, “Zao Wou-Ki's artistic destiny was not merely personal, it was closely related to the development and evolution of thousands of years of Chinese painting”. By the 1960s, Zao’s reputation and achievements had reached impressive heights. Remarkably, the artist, residing in France, put a strong voice behind not only his own art, but as an internationally renowned overseas Chinese artist, he devoted great efforts to supporting the careers of his overseas compatriots. In 1964, he participated in Hsiao Chin’s “chinesische künstler gegenwart” exhibition at the Städtisches Museum Leverkusen. He also maintained close relationships with members of the Punto art movement. In fact, Zao’s contact information was found in the address book of the famously reclusive Li Yuan-Chia, attesting to a previously unbeknownst private relationship.
In addition to his large-scale paintings during the 1960s, Zao’s fine, small-scale paintings were also an essential component of his creative works. 05.07.67 (Lot 1011) ingenuously arranges the canvas space and divides the composition evenly into three parts. The viewer’s eyes are immediately drawn to the dominant colour of red in the centre. In Chinese culture, red evokes feelings of celebration, and symbolizes passion and vigour. This band of hot-blooded life pulses through the centre of the canvas, the deep red brushstrokes crisscrossing in the middle invoking the balanced harmony of yin and yang. Although Zao uses a Western medium, with no explicit Chinese symbols, his work nevertheless emanates the Eastern concept of yijing and reflects the composition of traditional Chinese landscape painting.
The year after 05.07.67 was completed, it was exhibited at the San Francisco Museum of Art. American soil served as the breeding grounds for post-war Abstract Expressionism, and the San Francisco Museum of Art was an important pillar of this movement, hosting Jackson Pollock’s first solo exhibition. The museum went on to collect many pieces by the representative figures of Western Abstract Expressionism for its permanent collection. And Zao Wou-Ki was the first Chinese artist who had joined the ranks of the Western abstraction masters. The museum’s exhibition of 05.07.67 was a mark of the Western art world’s recognition of the artist’s work and an event of indisputable significance.
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