Largest Work by Zao Wou-Ki, Juin-Octobre 1985, Expected to Fetch HK$350m at Sotheby’s Hong Kong

Sotheby’s unveils the largest work by Zao Wou-ki, Juin-Octobre 1985, which is going to lead the Hong Kong autumn sales this September. This enormous painting is the most expensive artwork ever offered at Sotheby’s Hong Kong, expected to fetch in excess of HK$350m.

Zao Wou-ki’s Juin-Octobre 1985

Part of Juin-Octobre 1985

Part of Juin-Octobre 1985

Juin-Octobre 1985 is a rare triptych measuring 10 metres long and 2.8 metres in height, the largest ever work by Zao Wou-ki. Between 1966 and 2006, Zao created twenty large-scale triptychs, three of them are now in museum collection and seven are in the care of the Zao Wou-ki Foundation, leaving only 10 in private hands now. It is thus very rare to see this size of Zao’s painting on offer.

Juin-Octobre 1985 was commissioned personally by celebrated architect I. M. Pei for Raffles City in Singapore. These two international masters first met in 1952 at the Galerie Pierre Loeb in Paris, and established an immediate camaraderie. As I.M. Pei’s career as an architect gained momentum and success, he began commissioning Zao Wou-Ki to create paintings for the walls of his building projects. In 1980, I.M. Pei was given the reins to design Singapore’s Raffles City. I.M. Pei had invited Zao Wou-Ki to tour the premises, and commissioned the artist to create a large panel painting for the grand lobby of the main building before the completion of the building.

Zao Wou-ki and I. M. Pei. 1976Françoise Marquet

Juin-Octobre 1985 was on display in Raffles City in Singapore|Courtesy Foundation Zao Wou-Ki

Zao Wou-Ki returned to France and devoted himself to the painting, working tirelessly for five months. Juin-Octobre 1985 was finally completed and unveiled to the world in October 1985. Juin-Octobre 1985 possesses the trademark characteristics of Zao Wou-Ki’s Infinite Period. The paramount characteristic of the Infinite Period is a compositional departure from using a central axis, in which the visual weight is distributed along a vertical or horizontal dividing line. The artist’s change in composition is not merely a visual one, however, but a significant shift rooted deeply in artistic and human philosophy.

Juin-Octobre 1985 officially moved to Raffles City and put on public display in 1986. It remained at Raffles City all the way until 2005 when the painting was relocated during a significant reconstruction. In the same year, the painting was sold for HK$18m at Christie’s 20th Century Chinese Art & Asian Contemporary Art in Hong Kong, setting the world auction record for a Chinese oil painting. After 13 years, the painting is now offered at auction again, but the estimate has soared to HK$350m, 20 times its price realised in 2005.

Part of Juin-Octobre 1985

Part of Juin-Octobre 1985

Such a significant jump in price can be attributed to several reasons. First of all, Zao was still alive when the painting was last sold in 2005. The value and rarity of his paintings skyrocketed after his death in 2013. Besides, there has been a frenzy for Zao’s paintings in recent years. His works keep breaking auction record one after another. Looking at the previous auction records, none of them is a large-scale triptych.

Zao’s large triptych last appeared in the market in 2013, the same year when the artist passed away. It was sold for HK$85.2m at Sotheby’s 40th Anniversary Evening Sale. Still, that painting only measures 195x 390cm, not as large as the present one.



Et la terre était sans forme


To illustrate the rise in the price of Zao’s painting, we can take an example of Zao’s work of the 50s. Measuring 200 x 160cm, Et la terre était sans forme was sold for HK$29.5m when it was offered at Christie’s Hong Kong in 2007. This painting came onto the market again in 2018 and was sold for HK$182m at Poly Auction Hong Kong. It increases HK$150m in value merely after 11 years.

Zao Wou-ki’s paintings that fetched more than HK$100m at auctions

  • 29.01.64. Created in 1964. 250 x 260cm|Christie’s. 25 November 2017. Price realised: HK$202m
  • Et la terre était sans forme. Created in 1956-57. 200 x 160cm|Poly Auction. 29 March 2018. Price realised: HK$182m
  • 14.12.59. Created in 1959. 130 x 160cm|Christie’s. 26 May 2018. HK$176m
  • 29.09.64. Created in 1964. 230 x 345cm|Christie’s. 27 May 2017. HK$152m

We will have to wait and see if this largest work by Zao Wou-ki will continue to create momentum in Sotheby’s coming autumn sales in Hong Kong.


Highlights from Modern Art Evening Sale at Sotheby’s Hong Kong

Zao Wou-ki (1920-2013). Juin-Octobre 1985.

Size: 280 x 1,000cm

  • Raffles City Collection, Singapore
  • Christie’s, Hong Kong, 29 May 2005, Lot 241
  • Important Private Asian Collection

Estimate: HK$350,000,000

Zao Wou-ki (1920-2013). 23.05.64.

Size: 200 x 162cm

  • Kootz Gallery, New York
  • Galerie Thierry Salvador, Paris
  • Briest, Paris, 30 May 1991, Lot 37
  • Private European Collection
  • Calmels, Chambre, Cohen, Paris, 15 December 2000, Lot 106
  • Acquired directly from the above by the present important private Asian collector

Estimate: HK$80,000,000 - 120,000,000

Zao Wou-ki (1920-2013). 15.12.60.

Size: 130 x 96.5cm

  • Kootz Gallery, New York
  • Acquired directly from the above by the present important private American collector in 1961

Estimate: HK$18,000,000 - 28,000,000

Chu Teh-Chun (1920-2014). CE QUI SE PASSE

Size: 130 x 96.5cm

  • Private Asian Collection
  • Christie's, Hong Kong, 26 May 2012, Lot 2009
  • Acquired directly from the above by the present private Asian collector

Estimate: HK$15,000,000 - 25,000,000

Wifredo Lam (1902-1982). Sans Titre.

Size: 114.5 x 147.5cm

  • Galerie Melki, Paris
  • Acquired from the above by the present important private European collector

Estimate: HK$8,000,000 - 10,000,000

Auction details
Auction house: Sotheby’s Hong Kong
Sale: Modern Art Evening Sale
Sale date: 2018/9/30|5pm