The de Sarthe show tracks Mr. Zao’s evolution through the 1950s and ’60s. Two of the earlier pieces, “Bateaux au Port” (1952) and “Corrida” (1953), are still clearly figurative, showing the sketched outlines of sailing ships and bullfighting. These are also from Mr. Zao’s “Klee period.”
Mr. de Sarthe has one of four known surviving paintings that Mr. Zao created on his 1958 trip to Hong Kong, then a British colony, marking his first return to a Chinese city since his departure in 1948. He did not set foot in mainland China until 1972. The untitled canvas is covered in thick layers of red, from bright poppy shades to deep crimson. There are rough black marks that look like the primitive ideograms that would later form Chinese characters, though they are far from actual words. In the background, one might see the vague outline of the Middle Kingdom.
“It’s nearly impossible for a gallery to put together a show like this,” said Mr. de Sarthe, a French-born dealer who was based in the United States before his recent move to Asia. “Demand is very strong. Once collectors have them, they keep them.” The show, “Zao Wou-ki Paintings: 1950s-1960s,” will be on view at the gallery through April 29.
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