Abstract Zao Wou-Ki painting fetches US$65 million

‘Juin-Octobre 1985’ by Chinese painter Zao Wou-Ki has been sold at auction for US$65 million. (AFP pic)

HONG KONG: A ten-metre-long triptych by Zao Wou-Ki — one of the 20th century’s most prominent Chinese painters — fetched US$65 million (HK$510 million) at auction Sunday, Sotheby’s Hong Kong said.

Entitled “Juin-Octobre 1985”, the abstract artwork was commissioned personally by the world-renowned Chinese-American architect I.M. Pei.

Zao and Pei were both born to affluent bankers during the Chinese Republican era. They first met in Paris in 1952 and began a long-running friendship, according to the auction house.

The triptych — Zao’s largest work — set a world auction record for the late Chinese-French artist, surpassing the US$26 million paid at Christie’s last year for the painting “29.01.64”.

The painting represents a period of Zao’s career which marks “a perfect example of how he merged Eastern and Western techniques and philosophy into the painting,” said Vinci Chang, head of modern Asian art at Sotheby’s, at a preview last week.

Born in China in 1920, Zao moved to Paris in 1948. He was influenced by Western modernism and moved towards abstraction before also returning to Chinese brush-and-ink techniques by the early 1970s, according to Christie’s. He died in 2013.

Hong Kong auction houses have seen frenzied bidding among Asian buyers in recent years, with sales of diamonds, paintings and ancient ceramics shattering world records.

A nearly 1,000-year-old ink-on-paper handscroll entitled “Wood and Rock”, by one of China’s greatest literary masters Su Shi, is expected to fetch US$51 million at Christie’s Hong Kong in November.