Zao Wou-ki 's 29.01.64 Sold for US$26m, New World Auction Record for Oil Painting by Asian Artist

Another new record set at Christie’s Hong Kong for Zao Wou-ki again, shortly after its previous record made in May this year. Zao Wou-ki’s 29.01.64, the centrepiece at Asian 20th Century and Contemporary Art Evening Sale, was hammered down for HK$178m (US$22.89m) after an intense bidding battle with three telephone bidders fighting over it for 15 minutes. It was sold for HK$202.6m (US$26m) with buyer’s premium, setting a new auction record for the artist and the world record for an oil painting by any Asian artist.

In 29.01.64, what at first looks like a calligraphy piece reveals, on closer inspection, a landscape, forest, pond or wave in the tiny details. It is a work that may signify different things to different viewers. Readers of Chinese may ‘see the character for “love” or “longevity" while non-Chinese viewers might be drawn to the natural landscape.

Charmie Hamami

Estimated at HK$85m-125m, the painting was the leading lot of the sale. After the auctioneer asked for an opening bid of HK$50m, the next bid already jumped to HK$80m as someone shouted the unexpected subsequent bid in the telephone area, leaving everyone in the room in complete shock. “That saved our time,” the auctioneer joked.

Yu-shan Lu

Xin Li-Cohen is the third one from the right in the front row in the telephone area.

The price increased to HK$100m in the blink of an eye. Staying on the bidding battle were mainly three telephone bidders – represented by Charmie Hamami (Vice President, Southeast Asia), Yu-shan Lu (Specialist, Asian 20th Century & Contemporary Art) and Xin Li-Cohen (Deputy Chairman, Asia Pacific). After 15 minutes, the painting was hammered down at HK$178m (US$22.89m), followed by a round of applause in the room. The client of Xin Li-Cohen emerged victorious in the bidding battle.


The painting was sold for HK$202m (US$26m) and became the most expensive painting by Zao Wou-ki. The record for the artist was previously held by 29.09.64, another large painting that was sold for HK$153m (US$19.6m) at Christie’s Hong Kong in May this year. The winning bidder was a client of Charmie Hamami, rumoured to be a Southeast Asian billionaire.

Zao Wou-ki's 29.01.64 (Most Expensive Painting by Zao Wou-ki)

Lot no.: 24
Created in: 1964
Size: 260 x 200 cm
Signed in Chinese, signed ‘ZAO’ (lower right); signed, titled and inscribed ‘Zao Wou-Ki 29.1.64 260 x 200. ne pas vernir’ (on the reverse)
Private Collection, Europe (acquired directly from the artist by the present owner)
Note: This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by the Foundation Zao Wou-Ki.
Estimate: HK$85,000,000 - 125,000,000
Hammer price: HK$178,000,000
Price realized: HK$202,600,000

Auction house: Christie's Hong Kong
Sale: Asian 20th Century and Contemporary (Evening Sale)
Date: 2017/11/25


Zao Wou-ki's 29.09.64 (Second Most Expensive Painting by Zao Wou-ki)

Lot no.: 4
Created in :1964
Size: 230 x 345cm
Signed in Chinese, signed 'ZAO' (lower right); signed 'ZAO WOU-KI', titled '29.9.64' (on the reverse)

  • Galerie de France, Paris, France
  • Private collection, France (acquired from the above in 1969, and thence by descent to the present owner)

Estimate: HK$38,000,000 - 48,000,000
Hammer price: HK$135,000,000
Price realized: HK$152,860,000

Auction house: Christie's Hong Kong
Contemporaries: Voices from East and West / Asian 20th Century & Contemporary Art (Evening Sale)
Date: 2017/5/27