Zao Wou-ki has been dismissed by a number of European art market commentators who view him as a lesser abstract painter. The Chinese, on the other hand, have embraced him as a major market force despite his having spent most of his adult life in France.
This weekend, Christie’s sold 29.09.64 from 1964 for $19.7m or three times the high estimate of $6m during their marquee Hong Kong Evening sale of Modern and Contemporary art. It is a record price for the artist.
The sale as a whole did well but not well enough to suggest the picture was caught in a market up-draft. The bidders clearly wanted this picture and were willing to pay for it. The 7-ft by 11-ft 29.09.64 is one of the painter’s first large-scale abstract works. For a painter who had been to New York several times and had met with his peers there who were working in larger formats, these works were a conscious attempt to meld his training in traditional Chinese art, European modernism and the burgeoning Abstract Expressionism coming from America.