Lot 20
  • 20

ZAO WOU-KI | 3.12.67

750,000 - 1,000,000 EUR
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  • Zao Wou-Ki
  • 3.12.67
  • signed, signed in Chinese; signed, dated 3.12.67 and inscribed on the reverse
  • oil on canvas
  • 59,5 x 81 cm; 23 7/16 x 31 11/16 in.
  • Executed in 1967.


Collection Henry Clay Frick II, New York (acquired directly from the artist in 1968)
Thence by descent to the present owners


The colours are fairly accurate in the catalogue illustration. The work is executed on its original canvas and is not relined. Tiny losses are located close to the upper left edge near the rim together with a small loss in the center of the right edge and near the lower right corner (close to the rim). These are visible upon very close inspection only. Four tiny losses are located in the lower right quadrant together with a small area of stabilised cracks.There is a wear mark to the lower right corner certainly due to former framing. There are stabilised cracks that have been carefully consolidated in the lower left quadrant. The lower half of the canvas present some faint cracks. Under Ultra Violet Light inspection there is no evidence of restoration. This work is in good condition.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Painting, again and again. The full and the empty, the light and the dense, the lively and the breeze, the best possible.
Zao Wou-Ki Made in the last months of 1967, 3.12.1967 sheds brilliant light on Zao Wou-Ki's exceptional mastery of the most subtle color variations during the crucial years when he forged the esthetic vocabulary that turned him into one of the greatest artists of the modern and contemporary era. Drawing from pure eastern tradition as well as western abstraction, 3.12.1967 relates to both ancient Chinese composition –that divides the canvas into two distinct spaces of expression symbolizing the sky and the earth, to then let the line set the intention at the center of the composition- and the core elements of western modernism, which gives the work its extraordinary power of expression. Perfect fusion of two pictorial visions too-long considered irreconcilable, 3.12.1967 represents a golden milestone in the artistic exploration of this master of the full and the empty, who invokes the spirit of nature to shape the mist, the freezing fogs and the winds. In other words: the unseizable. Zao Wou-Ki here sculpts the space in a unique way through powerful and vigorous strokes of brush and paintbrush. Giving life to a mental landscape, he also writes a true pictorial manifesto, the lines sometimes overlapping like a cursive script that would be intelligible only to those worthy to decipher it. At the very beginning of 1968, only a few weeks after finishing 3.12.1967, Zao Wou-Ki picked a fine man to be the owner of this powerful piece. Grand son of the founder of the fabulous Frick Collection and American tycoon widely recognized as one of, if not the biggest collector of his time, son of the paleontologist Childs Frick, Henry Clay Frick II does not only come from a lineage of great men, he is one himself. Chairman of the board of directors of the Frick Collection from 1965 to 2001, emeritus doctor teaching at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, this spry fifty years-old travelling to Paris also distinguished himself for his exemplary conduct during the Vietnam war, for he voluntarily enrolled twice to serve in a countryside hospital. Passionate and spirited, Henry Clay Frick II and Zao Wou-Ki could only relate to each other when meeting during the winter of 1968, now over half a century ago. Half a century during which the canvas was preciously kept out of sight by the family, to now reappear in the city where it was imagined, conceived and revealed.

The authenticity of this work has been confirmed by the Fondation Zao Wou-Ki. The work will be included in the forthcoming Catalogue Raisonné currently being prepared by Françoise Marquet and Yann Hendgen. It is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity.