Zao Wou-Ki's Abstraction to lead Beijing Art Week at $7.3m with Sotheby's

Sotheby's is hosting Beijing Art Week from November 28-December 1, with Zao Wou-Ki's Abstraction starring in its first major auction in mainland China.

Zao Wou-Ki Abstraction Sotheby's
The painting's quality, size, date and provenance all contribute to the record-beating estimate

The auction house will present a trio of selling exhibitions, including diamonds, European furniture and paintings, as well as modern masters of western art.

These will be followed by the Modern and Contemporary Chinese Art auction on December 1, with Zao Wou-Ki's masterwork expected to see between $5.7m and $7.3m - an estimate that looks to beat the auction record for the artist, set at $4.8m at Sotheby's in April, shortly after the artist's death.

Previously, the record for Zao Wou-Ki's work was set at another Sotheby's sale in 2011, with a winning bid of $8.8m made by a buyer in Hong Kong. However, the unidentified collector failed to pay.

Abstraction was painted in 1958, and is considered a seminal masterpiece from his "oracle bone" period. It is described by Sotheby's as "a timeless treasure of exceptional value, extremely rare and sought after worldwide."

The painting was first shown at the illustrious Galerie Charpentier in Paris, as part of a large-scale exhibition, and has since passed through the hands of prominent collectors before being acquired by the Art Institute of Chicago, where it has remained for more than five decades.

Zao Wou-Ki (1920-2013), a Chinese-French painter, is one of China's greatest artists, with his work bridging the gap between eastern and western styles. Having lived in Paris in the 1940s, his work is influenced by the likes of Paul Klee, Matisse and Picasso, and therefore attracts worldwide attention from collectors.

Sotheby's has been able to hold the auction in Beijing thanks to a partnership with the Beijing Gehua Cultural Development Group, which is owned by the state. Christie's held its first auction in Shanghai in September, becoming the first auction house to sell a Picasso in mainland China.

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