趙無極 Zao Wou-Ki《14.12.59》
Works of Chinese-born painter Zao Wouki (1920-2013) have always been popular among art enthusiasts. Recently, the abstract art master has come under the spotlight again as his works fetch high prices in various spring auctions.
text: Michelle Siu
趙無極的作品於1960年代已在西方大受歡迎，1970至1980年代漸獲亞洲收藏家青睞，不少更成為世界主要博物館的館藏，並席捲各大拍賣場，足以印證他在藝壇舉足輕重的地位。這位亞洲藝術巨匠的作品遍佈全球超過20個國家的150多個公共館藏，紐約現代美術館和泰特現代美術館等大型博物館均將他的畫作納入永久館藏。至於其作品的拍賣成交總額，更位居全球藝術家10 強之列。當中在香港2017 年秋拍的《29.01.64 》，以逾2 億港元（約1.67億人民幣）成交，創下趙無極畫作和亞洲油畫的世界紀錄。環顧今年各大春拍，這股無極風依然強勁：甲骨文作品《大地無形》以1.83 億港元（約1.53 億人民幣）成交；狂草時期作品《26.04.62 》以8,500萬港元（約7,086萬人民幣）成交；轉型時期突破作品《14.12.59 》以1.77億港元（約1.47億人民幣）成交，全部都是該場最高價拍品，而且短短十數年升值好幾倍。
Born in Beijing, Zao Wou-ki started painting at the age of 10. He later attended the Hangzhou Fine Arts School. When he moved to Pairs in 1948, he became a fulltime artist. Influenced by artists such as Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso, and the styles of Western Modernism, Impressionism and Expressionism, Zao’s works shifted from figuration to abstraction. They became bolder in style and more fluid in composition. In the 1970s, Zao began to combine his Chinese heritage with abstract art by incorporating traditional Chinese ink techniques into his works. His later works are real masterpieces, which are energetic and vibrantly coloured. The abstract space adds an extra layer of depth and blows a breath of life into the canvas. Abstract art may be difficult to understand for novices. A key reminder is that abstract art goes beyond the objective surface to reflect the artist’s state of mind. The appreciation of it is subjective and the most important element is the mental connection between the art piece and the viewer. Zao’s works are particularly beginner-friendly. He titled his works with merely their date of completion from 1959 onwards to avoid over interpretation of the intended messages. As said in “The Death of the Author” by Roland Barthes, interpretation is completely up to the audience. In abstract art, everyone will have different views. The beauty of it lies in the infinite possibilities of imagination.
Zao’s works started to gain popularity in the West in the 1960s and sales took off in the Asian market in the 1970s and 1980s. They were displayed in museums around the world and featured in various auctions. Today, his masterpieces can be found in over 150 public collections across more than 20 countries. Major institutions that hold Zao’s paintings in their permanent collections include the Museum of Modern Art and Tate Modern. Zao is among the top 10 highest-selling artists in the world in terms of the total value fetched in auctions. In particular, “29.01.64” was sold for over HKD 200 million (RMB 167 million) in November 2017, establishing a new world record for the artist and setting the highest price paid for an oil painting by an Asian artist.Sales continue to go strong in 2018. This spring, “Et la terre était sans forme” from the artist’s Oracle Bone Period was sold for HKD 183 million (RMB 153 million); “26.04.62” from the Mad Cursive period yielded HKD 85 million (RMB 70.86 million); “14.12.59” from the Transitional Period achieved HKD 177 million (RMB 147 million).All represent the highest-selling item in their respective lots and have multiplied in value over the past decade.
Zao’s works are often in the millions range. Beginners may start by acquiring the artist’s prints or limited editions. Although they are produced in large amounts, all are certified and the number is limited. Each print carries Zao’s signature and its serial number. Some examples include “Tree of Life”,sold for HKD 40,000 (RMB 33,400) and “Les Cerfs” for HKD 50,000 (RMB 41,700).In fact, many acclaimed artists produce prints that are affordable for novice collectors. They are a great place to start.
趙無極 Zao Wou-K《i 26.04.62》