Zao Wou-ki (1921–2013), 9.9. 1970, oil on canvas, 55 x 65 cm/21.65 x 25.59 in.
Works by the singular Chinese master of lyrical abstract art, a transmitter of history and culture, always fetch high bids. This one was no exception: 9.9.1970 sold for €502,320. It dates to September 1970, three months before it was featured in a show dedicated to the artist at the Galerie de France. This was also a time when his work was on the brink of great changes. When the Belgium-born French poet and artist Henri Michaux urged Wou-ki to become reacquainted with the pleasure of ink painting, he employed it in large formats and diluted his oils on the background of the canvas a bit like a wash, plunging with delight into his Chinese roots. Meanwhile, and this is what the painting shows, his draftsmanship is still more striking: calligraphic and abstract strokes unfurl in the fluid environment of the canvas, giving off a beautiful impression of light strengthened by shades of green. The sale also included other famous as well as lesser-known names, starting with artist and writer Francis Picabia (1879–1953). His pencil and watercolor drawing Espagnole à la mantille (Spanish Woman with a Mantilla, 30.5 x 20.5 cm/12.00 x 8.07 in) is in a green-tinted parchment frame decorated with mirror blades by bookbinder Rose Adler (1890–1959). The combination of the two resulted in a winning bid of €74,704. Next, Samois, l'Écluse (Samois, the Lock, 24.4 x 34.6 cm/ 9.60 x 13.62 in), a 1900 watercolor by Paul Signac (1863–1935) depicting a port, which was a place of childhood memories for the artist. The curves of Jeune femme (Young Woman, h. 91 cm/35.82 in) carved in beige stone by Irène Codreano (1897–1985) fetched €45,080, a world record (source: Artnet). Works by the Romanian-born sculptor are rare in the market. She came to Paris to study with sculptors Bourdelle and Brancusi, but put her own stamp on modernity.