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Home is where the art is

By Li Yingxue| China Daily| Updated: October 27, 2023 L M S


Zao Wou-Ki (front) teaches at his painting workshop in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, in 1985. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Over eight decades ago, the artistic odyssey of Zao Wou-Ki, the internationally acclaimed Chinese-French painter, began in the enchanting city of Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, where his creativity took root and blossomed.

Now, on the 10th anniversary of his death, Zao's masterpieces have found their way back to their rightful home.

The Way Is Infinite: Centennial Retrospective Exhibition of Zao Wou-Ki opened at the Art Museum of China Academy of Art in Hangzhou last month, and will run until Feb 20.

Divided into six sections, the exhibition displays around 200 of Zao's most important works, including oil paintings, Chinese ink-wash paintings, watercolors, lithographs, painted porcelain and works of literature.


Untitled (Still Life With Apples), (1935-36, oil on canvas), by Zao. [Photo by Antoine Mercier/For China Daily]

As a significant cultural program, held as part of the 19th Asian Games Hangzhou, the exhibition is also linked with the 2024 China-France Year of Culture and Tourism, and a key project sponsored by the Zhejiang Culture and Art Development Fund.

It is hosted by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, the China Federation of Literary and Art Circles and the Zhejiang people's government, and specially supported by the embassy of France in China, the embassy of China in France and the embassy of China in Switzerland.

A forum, The Way Is Infinite: Zao Wou-Ki's World of Art and a symposium, The Dream Quest of West Lake — Zao Wou-Ki 85 Workshop, were held at the China Academy of Art.

Gao Shiming, general planner of the exhibition and president of the China Academy of Art, says that Zao is not just a towering figure in the academy's lineage, but also a shining star of modern art history.

"His work bridges the gap between Eastern and Western cultural traditions, creating a modernist Eastern style that allows the underlying spirit of Chinese culture to flourish in the fertile ground of modern painting," Gao says.


A view of The Way Is Infinite: Centennial Retrospective Exhibition of Zao Wou-Ki, an ongoing exhibition at the Art Museum of China Academy of Art in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Zao's work has found a prominent place in the collections of 150 major museums and art galleries around the world, including the Centre Pompidou in France, the Tate Modern in the United Kingdom, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art in the United States.

In 2017, Zao's 29.01.64 (1964) was sold for around HK $200 million (US $25.6 million) at Christie's in Hong Kong, setting a new record for his works and the world record for an oil painting by an Asian artist.

A year later, the insatiable enthusiasm for Zao once again astonished, driven by the auction success of his largest masterpiece to date.

His Juin-Octobre 1985, which is 280 centimeters by 1,000 cm in size, sold at Sotheby's Hong Kong, with the final price, after commissions, reaching a staggering HK $510 million.

This historic sale not only shattered the previous record for the most valuable painting ever sold at a Hong Kong auction, but also obliterated the world auction record for an oil painting by an Asian artist.

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