Zao Wou-Ki

“I think all painters, for them, are realist. They are abstract only for others”

Zao Wou-Ki was born to a wealthy family descended from the Song Dynasty. He started drawing since he was a child. His father, a banker, was supportive and allowed him to study the techniques of traditional Chinese and Western painting at the Hangzhou School of Fine Arts. At the same institution and after his training, the artist gave drawing lessons for five years. His first solo show took place in Chongqing when I was only 21. Heavily influenced by Cézanne, Matisse, and Picasso, Wou-Ki moved to Paris in 1948. There, his creation became abstract and he met Soulages, Francis, Bluhm and Riopelle, among others.

His work was diverse: he began to paint figurative works, mostly portraits, still lifes and landscapes, then from the 1950s he tended towards abstraction, and finally towards lyrical abstraction and calligraphy in the 1960s.

Born chinese, Zao Wou-Ki chose french nationality in 1964.

In 2002, he became a member of the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Paris.

Main public collections

The Tate Gallery, London
Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Bibliothèque royale d’Albert 1er de Belgique, Bruxelles
Musées d’art Moderne, Musées Royaux des Beaux-arts de Belgique, Bruxelles
Musée des Beaux-Arts, Montréal
Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, Toronto
Zyejiang Academy of Fine Arts, Hangzhou
National Institute of Fine Arts, Bejin
Hong Kong Museum of Art
Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Museum of Modern Art, New York
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco
Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris
Musée national d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris
National Museum of Art, Osaka

ZAO WOU-KI
zao wou-ki
Zao Wou-Ki, Le vent pousse la mer, 2004
Oil on canvas, 194,5 x 390 cm
Private collection
Photo: Dennis Bouchard
Zao Wou-Ki © ADAGP, Paris, 2018

From to

The Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris is presenting the first major exhibition devoted to Zao Wou-Ki (1920–2013) in Paris for fifteen years. His work has now achieved the fame it deserves, but the opportunities to appreciate its complexity have been too rare here. This exhibition sets out to consider it in a new light while also inviting the viewer to reflect on the question of large-format paintings.

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