Zao Wou-Ki Biography, Artwork, Galleries Online | BLOUIN ARTINFO
Louise Blouin Media
Louise Blouin Media, Inc.
88 Laight Street
10013
New York
Blouin Artinfo

Subscriber login

Biography

Occupation: Painter
Movement: Post-Modernism
 
Zao Wou-Ki's Famous Artworks
“Bateaux fond bleu,” 1951
“Cathedrale,” 1951-52
“Foudre,” 1955
“Debut d’Octobre,” 1955
“Sous bois dans la nuit,” 1955
“Et la terre etait sans forme,” 1956-57
“Abstraction,” 1958
“Juin-Octobre,” 1985
 
Zao Wou-Ki was an Abstract Painter of Chinese origin from France. He incorporated elements of his native crafts while producing his artworks, which gave a new direction to the modern aesthetic of mid-20th-century European art. Zao Wou-Ki has exhibited his paintings at many galleries worldwide.
 
Zao Wou-Ki's Life in China
Born in the winter of 1920 in Beijing, Zao was one of the direct descendants of the Song Dynasty, a royal family active in coastal China between the 10th and 13th century AD. He moved to his ancestral home of Dantu in the Jiangsu province when still a young boy, where, under the coaxing of his grandfather who had a deep knowledge of history and literature, he began fostering a passion for traditional calligraphy. 
 
Zao enrolled at the Hangzhou Academy of Art in 1934, apprenticing under Wu Da-Yu and Lin Fengmian to study oil painting. He honed his technique for over seven years, exhibiting for the first time at the Sino-Soviétic Association in Tchouang King in 1941. After graduating, he found work at the National Hangchow College of the Arts as a professor of painting, remaining there until 1947 when he and his composer wife Lan-lan immigrated to France.
 
Zao Wou-Ki in Paris
The couple moved into the same neighborhood in Montparnasse where Emile Othon Friesz was conducting classes, a calculated move for Zao who had great admiration for French art, having been exposed to the work of Matisse, Picasso, and Cezanne during his student days. Upon arrival, he formed a close friendship with Joan Miro, Henri Michaux and Maria Elena Vieira da Silva whilst taking classes in lithography at the Grand Chaumiere. 
 
Within a year, a series of solo exhibitions were mounted across Paris — at the Galerie Creuze, Galerie Pierre and Galerie La Hune — followed swiftly by shows at the Galerie Klipstein in Bern and the Galerie Feigel in Basel. Zao’s quietly poetic canvases were large-scale abstractions, influenced as deeply by Impressionism as eastern calligraphy, Paul Klee and the Art Informel movement. The series was both critically and commercially successful. 
 
Zao Wou-Ki's Travels
Having left their son in the care of Zao’s parents, the couple concentrated on their individual careers in France. The consequent strain on their relationship led to divorce in the mid-1950s, following which the artist traveled to New Jersey to visit his brother Chao Wu-Wai. Situated close to the vibrant art scene in New York City, Zao investigated the ethos and aesthetic of the Pop Art movement, which was gaining momentum in the United States. After six weeks in America (during which he had painted seven canvases), he left for Tokyo and Hong Kong, where he met the single mother and film actress Chan May-Kan. They were married the next year and returned to Paris.   
 
Zao Wou-Ki's Later Life
The first of Zao’s extended retrospectives were held at the Folkwang Museum in Essen in 1965. By this time, his work was being exhibited around the world. After his wife’s suicide in 1972, he traveled frequently to China, creating a number of ink paintings executed in the tradition of his native idiom. 
 
In 1972, he met museum curator Francoise Marquet in Paris. They married four years later. He became a professor at the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Arts Decoratifs in 1980 and a member of the Academie des Beaux-Arts a few years later. Although he stopped working in the studio towards the end of the century, Zao Wau-Ki's paintings were still exhibited in museums and galleries in Europe, North America and South Asia. 
 
He and his wife moved to Nyon when he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, where he passed away in April of 2013 after battling the illness for over two years. You can buy Zao Wau-Ki's artworks online.
 
Zao Wou-Ki's Major Exhibitions
1952  -  Galerie Pierre, Paris
1952  -  Kunstmuseum Basel
1954  -  Museum of Fine Arts, Cincinnati
1958  -  Kootz Gallery, New York
1958  -  Galerie de France, Paris
1975  -  Musee National d’Art Moderne, Paris
1977  -  Fuji Television Gallery, Tokyo
1980  -  Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York
1981  -  Grand Palais, Paris
1982  -  National Museum of Modern Art, Singapore
1982  -  Hong Kong Arts Centre
1983  -  National Museum of History, Taiwan
1983  -  National Museum of Beijing
1983  -  Zhejiang Academy of Fine Arts
1984  -  Krugier Gallery, Geneva
1984  -  Galerie de France, Paris
1986  -  Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York
1987  -  Fuji Television Gallery, Tokyo
1990  -  Musee des Beaux-Arts, Tours
1993  -  Taipei Fine Arts Museum
1993  -  Alisan Fine Arts, Hong Kong
1995  -  Galerie Lucien Schweitzer, Luxembourg
1996  -  Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts, Taiwan
1996  -  Museum of Art, Hong Kong
1996  -  Art Galerie J. Bastien, Brussels
1996  -  Jan Krugier Gallery, New York
1997  -  Lin & Keng Gallery, Taipei
1997  -  Galerie Thessa Herold, Paris
2001  -  Institut Francais, Barcelona
2001  -  IVAM Centre Julio Gonzalez, Valencia
2001  -  Musee d’Ixelles, Brussels
2003  -  Marlborough Gallery, New York
2003  - Musee du Jeu de Paume, Paris
2008  -  Bibliotheque Nationale de France, Paris
2009  -  Alisa Fine Arts, Hong Kong
2013  -  Alisan Fine Arts, Hong Kong
 
Zao Wou-Ki's Museums / Collections
Raffles City, Singapore
Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Castagnola
Tate Gallery, London
Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington DC
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
Musee des Beaux-Arts, Brussels
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Museum of Modern Art, New York
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Albertina Museum, Vienna
Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris
Musee National d’Art Moderne, Paris
Folkwang Museu, Essen
Taiwan Museum of Art, Taichung
National Museum of History, Taipei
National Osaka Art Museum
Bridgestone Museum of Art, Tokyo
 
Books /Publications
“Zao Wou-Ki” by Jean Leymarie
“Zao Wou-Ki” by Daniel Abadie
“Zao Wou-Ki” by Pierre Daix
“Couleurs et mots” by Zao Wou-Ki
“Zao Wou-Ki: Works, Writings, Interviews” by Pierre Schneider and Michel Ragon
“Zao Wou-Ki” by Claude Roy

 

 

NEWS

Sotheby’s To Sell Unseen Works of Zao Wou-Ki, Nicolas de Staël, Jean Dubuffet, Kazuo Shiraga & Hans Hartung in Paris

By BLOUIN ARTINFO | June 1, 2018

Know Your Artist — By the Numbers: Zao Wou-Ki

By BLOUIN ARTINFO | May 25, 2018

Great Expectations at this Auction. Zao Wou-Ki's Work at Phillips’ 20th-Century and Contemporary Art and Design Evening Sale in Hong Kong, May 27, 2018

By Tina Xu | May 17, 2018

Auction Records Tumble as Oil Painting by Asian Artist Zao Sells for $26 Million

By Mark Beech | December 27, 2017

Sale Report: Sotheby's Hong Kong 2017 Spring Sales

By Meghana Reddy | April 12, 2017

Zao Wou-Ki, Chu Teh-Chun & Che Chuang at Omer Tiroche Gallery, London

By BLOUIN ARTINFO | April 4, 2017

SLIDESHOWS

Abstract and Contemporary Paintings, Sculptures

By BLOUIN ARTINFO | July 3, 2018

Post-War & Contemporary Art Paris, Evening Sale

By BLOUIN ARTINFO | June 6, 2018

Art Contemporain Evening Sale — June 6, 2018

By BLOUIN ARTINFO | June 5, 2018

Post-War and Contemporary Art Paris, Day Sale

By BLOUIN ARTINFO | May 30, 2018

Abstract and Contemporary Art at Ader, Paris

By BLOUIN ARTINFO | May 25, 2018

Know Your Artist — By the Numbers: Zao Wou-Ki

By BLOUIN ARTINFO | May 25, 2018

GALLERIES
Lin & Lin Gallery

Taipei, TW

Aktis Gallery

London, GB

Galerie 1900-2000

Paris, FR