Phillips Invites Viewers to Zao Wou-ki’s World of Landscape by Presenting his 70s Masterpiece

In recent years, Zao Wou-ki paintings have been highly sought-after at auction with a number of them sold for more than HK$100m. To meet the strong demand from buyers, Phillips Hong Kong brings one of the extraordinary paintings created by the abstract master. The focal point of its 20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design is Zao’s 04.01.79, estimated at HK$50m. We have invited Jonathan Crockett, Phillips’ Deputy Chairman of Asia, to talk about this painting.

04.01.79 was painted in 1979. Measuring 250 x 260 cm, it is the largest one by the artist from the 1970s that has ever to come to the auction market. In order to get a true sense of it, one has to stand in front of the painting to see how Zao combines the element of Eastern philosophy with the style and technique of Western paintings.

Though it is an abstract painting, it actually refers back to the ancient Chinese landscape paintings. Depicted on the top area are rocks and mountains while the white here suggests clouds and rising mist. There are a lot of ink and paint on the canvas. You can also see thick impasto on some part of the painting, as well as the strong brushstroke all across the painting. Zao created a watery surface on the painting and added depth to it where paints are like dripping down.

All the colours, white, black, brown, blue and pink, are referencing to the various forms of rocks and mountains in landscape paintings. The white suggests mist whereas the dark tones suggest hard and rocky landscape.

The present work also features elements of the artist’s early oracular paintings from the 1950 so this work is also a testimony of his transitional period from the 50s to 60s.

The painting looks spectacular in photos, but you have to see it with your own eyes to appreciate different layers and colours on it. So once we toured it around Southeast Asia, in Taiwan and Singapore, collectors began to get excited about it after they saw the painting in person. Now we have interest from Asia and West and I look forward to a strong result from it.

Phillips believes 04.01.79 will fetch a record for works created by Zao Wou-ki in the 1970s. The previous record is about HK$49m so the present work is expected to be sold for about HK$50m or higher.

Zao Wou-ki (1921-2013). 04.01.79.

Lot no.: 5
Created in: 1979
Size: 250 x 260cm

  • Private Collection, Asia (acquired directly from the artist)
  • Private Collection, Asia
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimate: About HK$50,000,000


Auction details

Auction house: Phillips Hong Kong
Sale: 20th Century and Contemporary Art & Design Evening Sale
Venue: Mandarin Oriental, Central
Lots offer: 70
2018/5/24, 25, 27|10:30am - 6pm
2018/5/26 |10:30am - 7pm
Sale: 2018/5/27|6pm