Juin-Octobre 1985, Largest Work by Abstract Painter Zao Wou-ki, On View in Hong Kong

Juin-Octobre 1985, the largest-ever painting by Franco-Chinese artist Zao Wou-ki, is set to be the most expensive artwork ever sold at Sotheby’s Hong Kong as it is expected to fetch in excess of HK$350m (US$45m), a world auction record for the artist. During the media preview yesterday, we took a sneak peek of the spectacular painting and invited Vinci Chang, Sotheby’s Head of Modern Asian Art, to tell us the significance of Juin-Octobre 1985.

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

Lot no.: 1004
Created in: 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

Vinci Chang, Sotheby’s Head of Modern Asian Art

Q: Why did the owner decide to offer this work at this particular time? How did Sotheby’s get the consignment of such important painting?

Vinci: I have been a good friend of the owner for more than a decade. The collector has kept this work in the collection for 13 years and he/she really likes this work. Since the collector is now in old age so he/she hopes this painting will be in good hands and pass it on to another collector who knows how to appreciate it and take good care of the painting.

Q: This painting is 1,000 cm wide. Where does the current owner keep this painting?

Vinci: The owner places it in his/her house, where the work is showcased in a viewing room.

Q: What’s so special about this work?

Vinci: This painting was created in 1985, a period that the artist reached maturity in terms of his artwork creation and execution. His work was made in great precision, demonstrating the artist’s perfect mastery of presenting his ideas on canvas. The period between the 60s and the 90s was also a transition period to the artist as he was moving from the bold style of his ‘Calligraphy’ series to his ‘Infinite Period’ in the 80s onwards. During the ‘Infinite Period’, he tended to use an open composition and vibrant colours to create works that symbolise his liberated transcendence of mind of self.

Zao Wou-ki

Q: Some said Zao Wou-ki was inspired by Chinese master Zhang Daqian’s iconic splashed-colour landscapes. Can we find any Zhang’s influence on this Zao Wou-ki's painting?

Vinci: It is one of the possibilities proposed by other scholars and connoisseurs. We still haven’t found any solid evidence to support this argument.

Q: Is there any special meaning of triptych? Why did Zao Wou-ki use a triptych instead of a single canvas?

Vinci: The triptych is more commonly seen in Western paintings, especially in religious paintings of the Renaissance. Zao Wou-ki was trying to create a wider, macro viewing experience as triptych shows a bigger picture than a single canvas can do.

Vinci: The artist needs to think carefully about how to construct his work on such a large-scale triptych before one really works on the panels. So it’s very likely that Zao Wou-ki had thought about the whole painting process from the very beginning to the end in his mind. Besides, the work is 1,000 cm wide and 280cm tall, about two times Zao Wou-ki’s height. So you can imagine how difficult and challenging it was to him. He couldn’t have done it without strong will and perseverance.

Q: Has there any client already expressed interest in buying this work? Where do they come from?

Vinci: A lot. We have received enquiries from many collectors around the world. It is rare to see Zao Wou-ki work of such large scale on the market, maybe only two times at auction. We already have collectors drop by to look at the piece in person.

Q: This work is estimated at HK$350m (US$45m), which is going to be an auction record for the artist. What made Sotheby’s set such an unprecedented estimate ever in Hong Kong?

Vinci: The auction record for Zao Wou-ki is HK$200m so the present estimate of HK$350m is mostly based on the recent market performance. (Currently, the most expensive work by Zao Wou-ki is 29.01.64, which was sold for HK$202m/US$26m.)

Zao Wou-ki's 29.01.64

Juin-Octobre 1985 will be offered at Sotheby’s Modern Art Evening Sale on 30 September. We will see if this painting will set another new auction record for Zao Wou-ki. Please stay tuned.

Auction details

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