Zao’s Wows: Abstract works by Zao Wou-Ki go for unrecognisable figures

By Suchetana
Sep 05, 2018

One artist above all dominated proceedings at Christie’s Hong Kong’s 20th Century Asian & Contemporary Art Sale – Zao Wou-Ki, with many of the esteemed abstract master’s works going for well beyond their original estimates.

Zao Wou-Ki

One such piece was the enigmatically titled 14.12.59, which eventually went for a remarkable US$22.5 million, nearly double its initial estimate. Tellingly, even those unsteeped in the arcane nuances of the fine arts world confessed themselves drawn by the primeval force of this painting by Zao Wou-Ki, with its bold red and black hues embodying passion, fire, blood and life itself.

Zao Wou-Ki

02.11.59, another of the Beijing-born artist’s classic works in oil, which sold for US$12 million, again reflects the battle between the light and the dark, one of Zao’s most abiding motifs. With both works completed in 1959, part of their value is derived from the rare insights they offer into the late painter’s more mature artistic vision. With the value only set to soar as the posthumous reputation of Zao Wou-Ki continues to build, his works seem to offer that rarest combination – aesthetic delight and escalating investment value.

Text: Suchetana Mukhopadhyay