Zao Wou-Ki’s Voie Lactée – 09.11.1956 Sells for RMB 56.4m at Christie’s Shanghai

Zao Wou-Ki paintings continue to reign supreme at auctions. A rare painting from his "oracle-bone" period Voie Lactée – 09.11.1956 just sold at Christie’s 20th Century & Contemporary Art (Evening Sale) in Shanghai for RMB 56.4m (US$7.95m), exceeding the presale estimate of RMB 38m-68m. It is also the highest price ever realised in Christie’s Shanghai since its first sale in 2013.

The evening sale totalled RMB 124m (US$17.5m) and achieved a sell-through rate of 97%, selling 29 of 30 lots offered.

The top lot of the sale, Voie Lactée – 09.11.1956, is an extremely rare work from Zao’s “oracle-bone” period. It is a powerful testament to the artist’s belief in how Asian art should be perceived within a wider context. This period marks a significant breaking-out point in Zao’s career, as he drew inspiration from Chinese oracle-bones and bronzeware scripts - some of the oldest forms of writing in China. By using the expressive nature of Western oil medium, Zao realised his desire to seamlessly meld Eastern and Western art forms.

"Milky Way" is an extremely rare theme in Zao's artwork. In this masterpiece, he draws inspiration from the ancient Star Map from the Tang dynasty and transforms ancient Chinese written characters by depicting a vast flow of stars across the skies of the Milky Way, linking the ever-evolving civilization of mankind's past to its future, leaving a unique imprint of Eastern art on the eternity of the cosmos. Estimated at RMB 38m-68m, Voie Lactée – 09.11.1956 was hammered down at RMB 47m and sold for RMB 56.4m (US$7.95m) after premium.

Other highlights of the sale include Living in the box, a collaboration between two of the finest Japanese contemporary artists, Yoshimoto Nara and Hiroshi Sugito, which was sold for RMB 7.92m against its estimate between RMB 2.1m and 3m; a sculpture entitled Le profil du temps by Surrealist artist Salvador Dalí that sold for RMB 7.68m.

Top three lots

Zao Wou-ki (1921-2013). Voie Lactée – 09.11.1956

Lot no.: 307
Created in: 1956
Size: 162 x 114cm

  • Galerie de France, Paris, France
  • Private Collection, Europe
  • Christie’s Taipei, 12 April 1998, Lot 3
  • Private Collection, Asia
  • Christie’s Hong Kong, 25 April 2004, Lot 720
  • Private Collection, Asia

Estimate: RMB 38,000,000 - 68,000,000
Hammer price: RMB 47,000,000
Price realised: RMB 56,400,000

Yoshitomo Nara (b. 1959) & Hiroshi Sugito (b. 1970). Living in the box

Lot no.: 311
Painted in: 2004
Size: 70 x 64.3cm

  • Arndt & Partner, Berlin and Zurich.
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2007.

Estimate: RMB 2,100,000 - 3,000,000
Price realised: RMB 7,920,000

Salvador Dalí (1904-1989). Le profil du temps

Lot no.: 308
Conceived in 1977
Size: 380 x 259 x 200cm

  • I.A.R. Art Resources Ltd.
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner in February 2011.

Estimate: RMB 7,000,000 - 10,000,000
Price realised: RMB 7,680,000


Auction summary

Auction house: Christie's Shanghai
Sale: 20th Century & Contemporary Art (Evening Sale)
Sale date: 21 September 2019
Lots offered: 30
Sold: 29
Unsold: 1
Sold by lots: 97%
Sale total: RMB 124,116,000