Zao Wou-Ki, the « No-Limits » Artist.

Zao Wou-Ki, the « No-Limits » Artist.

In Chinese, Wou-Ki means « no limits ».

A name that particularly suits this artist, whom embraced different cultural identities without ever being beholden to one. It also suits the variety of his works in terms of content, as well as the different techniques he experimented, such as oil on canvas, ink on paper, lithography, engraving, and watercolor.

In honor of the Chinese artist, his works are being exhibited until 6 January 2019 at the Museum of Modern Art of Paris.

The market prices regarding the artist are steadily increasing as a consequence of the artist’s death in 2013. Zao Wou-Ki and his wife moved to the French capital in 1948, since Paris had always been a source of inspiration for the artist. He idolized painters like Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso and was influenced by Impressionists. It seems like Zao Wou-Ki never possessed the necessary “qualities” to become a successful artist during his lifetime. He was a painter, therefore he was definitely not part of the famous Parisian “avant-garde”. Furthermore, he was Chinese, although he knew how to speak and write in French, and apolitical, in a period when everything was about politics. According to him, painting did not need any alibi, so he painted the harmony he saw in the world in a period when France was obsessed only about disharmony. But obviously, his talent and his authentic style made him an authentic artist that encountered success. His style slightly recalls Monet and Matisse’s, yet he was also much influenced by his own traditional Chinese education.

A style "no limits" that evolved.

His artistic production consists of figurative paintings, mostly portraits and a few still-lifes and landscapes, of large-scale paintings inspired by Paul Klee leaning towards abstraction realized in the 1950s, and of lyrical abstractions, Chinese inks, calligraphies created in the 1960s. He rapidly found appreciation in the Western World. He was a friend of Pierre Soulages, Joan Miró, Henri Michaux, but had to wait until 1983 to get recognition in his own country, where today the National Museum of China in Beijing exhibits his works.

Since the 1960s, the demand for the artist’s work has always been increasing in Paris, London and New York. Nevertheless, it took a bit longer for the artist’s work to get recognition in the Asian Market. In the years before his death, at the age of 93, Wou-ki’s works were consistently sold by auction houses for six-figures prices. Apart from the Museum of Modern Art in Paris, Wou-ki’s works can be found in more than 150 public collections across more than 20 countries. We are glad to offer on two authentic artworks and a correspondence of letters by the artist.

"Zao Wou-Ki’s paintings are ageless in their questioning of the universe, in their efforts at recreation," said the art critic François Jacob about Wou-ki’s latest works. ‘They show us the birth of light, the origins of water, and beyond these turbulent upheavals of matter, a distant sense of life energy coming into being in their midst.’

Sources : 

Christie's : 10 things to know about Zao Wou-Ki (1 May 2018)