May 8, 2018 12:00 EDT

Modern & Contemporary Art

 
 

44

Zao Wou-Ki (Chinese/French, 1920-2013)
15.04.80 - Triptyque

Signed and signed in Chinese bottom right, signed again, titled, dated '15.4.80,' inscribed with dimensions and dedicated 'Pour Donna et Arthur A. Hartman / Amitiés, de Françoise et Zao Wou-Ki' verso, oil on three joined canvases.

triptych: 13 5/8 x 28 3/16 in. (34.6 x 71.6cm)

Provenance: The Artist.
The Ambassador Arthur Hartman & Mrs. Donna Hartman, Paris, France (acquired directly from the above circa 1980).
By family descent.
LITERATURE:
Jean Leymarie, Zao Wou-Ki, Paris : Éditions Cercle d'Art; Barcelona: Ediciones Poligrafia, 1986, no. 535 (p. 351, illustrated).

NOTE:
This lot is accompanied by a photo-certificate of authenticity issued by the Fondation Zao Wou-Ki, dated 12 Mars 2018 and signed by Françoise Marquet, the artist's widow and President of the Fondation Zao Wou-Ki.

We are grateful to Mr. Yann Hendgen for his assistance cataloguing and researching this work.

Sold for $862,000
Estimated at $600,000 - $800,000


 

Signed and signed in Chinese bottom right, signed again, titled, dated '15.4.80,' inscribed with dimensions and dedicated 'Pour Donna et Arthur A. Hartman / Amitiés, de Françoise et Zao Wou-Ki' verso, oil on three joined canvases.

triptych: 13 5/8 x 28 3/16 in. (34.6 x 71.6cm)

Provenance: The Artist.
The Ambassador Arthur Hartman & Mrs. Donna Hartman, Paris, France (acquired directly from the above circa 1980).
By family descent.
LITERATURE:
Jean Leymarie, Zao Wou-Ki, Paris : Éditions Cercle d'Art; Barcelona: Ediciones Poligrafia, 1986, no. 535 (p. 351, illustrated).

NOTE:
This lot is accompanied by a photo-certificate of authenticity issued by the Fondation Zao Wou-Ki, dated 12 Mars 2018 and signed by Françoise Marquet, the artist's widow and President of the Fondation Zao Wou-Ki.

We are grateful to Mr. Yann Hendgen for his assistance cataloguing and researching this work.

"Zao Wou-Ki, 15.04.80 - Triptyque"By: Dr. Melissa WaltZao Wou-Ki, the Chinese-French master of postwar abstraction, created a unique visual language that drew from both western modernism and Chinese aesthetics. His artistic journey began at age fifteen when he enrolled in the art academy at Hangzhou, continued during wartime in Chongqing, and eventually led him to Paris in 1948, an anticipated two-year visit that lasted a lifetime. Within a few years of arriving in Paris, his modernist aesthetic was recognized in Europe, America, and Asia, and today Zao Wou-Ki is celebrated as an early exemplar of global abstraction."15.04.80 - TRIPTYQUE" captures the artist at the height of his mature style. Zao's early explorations with Chinese calligraphy gave way to pure abstraction in 1957, and by the late 1960s, Zao softened the hard edges of abstraction with the sensibilities and structural nuances of his earliest artistic training: ink painting. One sees that shift in "15.04.80 - TRIPTYQUE." Its complex evocation of space oscillates between abstraction and tangibility, and at once suggests crashing waves, misty landscape forms, and cosmic forces made visible.The painting's power can be attributed to Zao's masterful color sense, and to his muscular application of pigments. The soft palette here deviates from the vibrant colors of many of Zao's paintings. Indeed, "15.04.80 - TRIPTYQUE," completed in early April, suggests the pale colors of springtime -- yellow, pink, blue -- veiled in mist, and punctuated by occasional passages of darker pigment. The richly textured surface, another distinctive feature of Zao's paintings, further animates the work. Thickly applied pigments reach a crescendo in the central panel, giving every indication of having been applied with crumpled paper or cloth rather than swept on with conventional brushstrokes.Throughout his long career, Zao set continual artistic challenges for himself. He experimented with different media, moving between oils and watercolors, and mastered a variety of printing processes. He also experimented with scale, working on ever-larger compositions from the mid-1950s. And beginning in 1966, he tried working with multiple panels, which offered a means of increasing scale. Some of them -- diptychs, triptychs, quadriptychs - achieved near-monumental size."15.04.80 - TRIPTYQUE," though, is not one of these. Instead, it is one of a handful of small-scale triptychs, a format that Zao turned to occasionally beginning in the mid-1970s. While multiple canvases made perfect sense for enlarging overall compositional size, why these small ones? The answer may lie in the challenge they posed for him. "15.04.80 - TRIPTYQUE" cannot be understood merely as a reduction of a larger work. Instead, it required that Zao create a harmonious composition on an entirely different scale, one that made sense structurally and visually, given the three-canvas format. Balance and proportion needed to be accommodated. Furthermore, the bold gestural marks that are a hallmark of Zao's large works required more restraint here, and yet needed to achieve similar visual impact - which they do.Arthur Hartman acquired Zao Wou-Ki's "15.04.80 - TRIPTYQUE" shortly after its creation. As American ambassador to France, Hartman and Zao moved in the same cultural circles and came to know one another well. Given Zao Wou-Ki's wide-ranging interests and magnetic personality, it comes as no surprise that the two forged a warm friendship, with this painting a physical manifestation of their bond.Dr. Melissa WaltColby College-Co-curator and co-author of "No Limits: Zao Wou-Ki," The Asia Society, New York, 2017"15.04.80 - Triptyque"By: Mr. Yann HendgenThe next important exhibition of the Museum of Modern Art of the City of Paris will honor, during six months, Zao Wou-Ki's large format paintings. From the 1950s, he seeks to go over the boundaries of his canvases and confronts himself with an increasingly wide space. This is when he completes Aube (aucun soir ni aucun matin) - [Dawn (no evening nor any morning)] - (200 x 300 cm, National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, Japan) during the spring of 1957.At the beginning of autumn, Zao Wou-Ki goes to New Jersey for a long stay at Wou-Wei's, his brother who is a teacher at the MIT in Boston. Zao Wou-Ki often goes to New York and signs a contract with the gallerist Samuel Kootz in November. He meets the leading artists of the School of New York - many of them will become his friends - and appreciates the spontaneity and freshness of their paintings.Coming back to Paris in 1959, he buys a new vaster studio. But it is only in 1964, more than six years after his American stay, that he starts painting very large formats, among them 25.10.64. - Hommage à Edgar Varèse (25.10.64. - Tribute to Edgar Varese) measuring 255 x 345 cm (Cantonal Museum of Fine Arts, Lausanne, Switzerland; donated by Françoise Marquet-Zao in 2015).In 1966, Zao Wou-Ki starts exploring new formats and completes his first large triptych: 01.04.66, 195 x 358 cm. He speaks about the 'great physical elation' he feels when painting very large surfaces, he loves to 'fight with space', declaring he feels 'very comfortable in the heart of the colors turmoil'.During the 1970s, he goes on painting large compositions. Some of them are in one piece such as 10.09.72 - En mémoire de May (10.09.72 - In memory of May) (200 x 525 cm, National Museum of modern art, Paris, France); for others, he goes back to the triptych as for 01.04.76 - Hommage à Malraux (01.04.76 - Tribute to Malraux) (200 x 524 cm, Hakone Open-Air Museum, Japan).Starting in 1975, he also paints small diptychs or triptychs that are less than one meter long. Between 1975 and 1979, he will complete ten of these small paintings. This type of production peaks in 1980: he paints two of them in January, two in April and one in September. The small triptych entitled 15.04.80 belongs to this category.So, in parallel to his large compositions, Zao Wou-Ki wanted to paint small formats which he thought more difficult to execute. If the large triptychs enable him to enhance monumentality, to free his movements and his spontaneity, and to expand his energy, the small triptychs concentrate and confine his painting in a limited space where he cannot afford any mistake. That is how he alternates expanding universes that go over the very boundaries of the canvas with whole worlds concentrated in flat reduced areas.Apart from an example in 1976, none of these works is strictly speaking a preparatory work for a large triptych. Our small triptych dated 1980 must therefore be considered as a separate work. It also fully corresponds to the appeased painting of this decade.The resumption of the practice of India ink at the beginning of the 1970s, due to the urging of his friend, the poet Henri Michaux, leads him to significantly change his way of painting. By superposing fine colored layers, he tries to recreate with oil the fluidity and transparencies of India ink.Therefore 15.04.80 is the testimony of both Zao Wou-Ki's pleasure of painting but also of his spatial, technical and aesthetic researches.Mr. Yann HendgenFondation Zao Wou-Ki

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