Zao Wou-Ki was a Chinese-French artist known for his non-representational paintings that blended Eastern and Western modes of art making. “Everybody is bound by a tradition. I am bound by two,” the artist once reflected. Born on February 1, 1920 in Beijing, China, he studied at the Hangzhou Fine Arts School for six years where he was influenced by the work of traditional Chinese and Japanese art as well as Western painters like Paul Klee and Franz Kline. In 1947, the artist moved to Paris where he became the neighbor of Alberto Giacometti and friends with Sam Francis, Jean-Paul Riopelle, and Pierre Soulages. During the following decades, Zao’s work became very popular with Chinese collectors and by the 2000s his paintings were selling in the millions.
The artist died on April 9, 2013 in Nyon, Switzerland at the age of 93. In 2016, he was the subject of his first retrospective held in the United States titled “No Limits Zao Wou-Ki” at the Asia Society in New York. Today, the artist’s works are in the collections of the Tate Gallery in London, The Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., among others.