Large-scale Zao Wou-ki

On 01 July 2018, by Marie-Laure Castelnau
Zao Wou-ki (1920-2013), «Hommage à Matisse, 02 02 861», 1986, oil on canvas, 162 x 130 cm. Private collection.
Adagp, Paris 2018. Dennis Bouchard

Fifteen years after the 2003 Jeu de Paume retrospective, the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris is once more paying tribute to the Chinese painter who moved to France in 1948, with a particular focus on his large paintings of 1956 onwards. The exhibition features a selection of forty masterpieces from museums and private collections all over the world. The circuit opens with a major painting in neutral tones dating from 1956: "Traversée des apparences". This illustrates Zao Wou-ki's changeover to a pictorial expression "where references to the surrounding world disappear", and where his painting gradually moved away from any representation. From now on, he focused on abstraction – a term he considered too restrictive – and especially landscapes, or rather "nature". Music and poetry remained key sources of inspiration throughout his career, particularly through highly intense encounters, including with the composer Edgar Varèse and Henri Michaux. The artist dedicated several paintings to them, and also to Henri Matisse, whom he deeply admired – as witness this amazing "Hommage à Matisse" (see photo), composed of several vertical bands of blue, black and white: a nod to "La Porte fenêtre à Collioure". Worth noting: the last room, which contains a group of large ink drawings from 2006, never before exhibited in Paris.

"Zao Wou-ki, L’Espace est silence", until 6 January 2019,
Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris.


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