Zao Wou-Ki, born in Peking, China, in 1920, started creating art at the age of 10. Wou-Ki’s parents encouraged his early in art and sent him to the Hangzhou School of Fine Arts, where he studied under Lin Fengmian, a pioneer of modern painting in China. In 1941, at the age of 21, Wou-Ki presented his first exhibition.


Having idolised Matisse and Picasso in his formative years, and continually being influenced by Western modernism and the work of the Impressionists and Expressionists, in 1948, Wou-Ki and his wife moved to Paris. It was in the French capital that his painting began to shift towards abstraction.


His first trip to New York, in 1957, opened new perspectives and opportunities for Wou-Ki, when he encountered the work of Abstract Expressionists Paul Klee, Franz Kline, Philip Guston and Adolph Gottlieb, and he was invited to join the Samuel Kootz Gallery. It was then that Wou-Ki developed a bolder style and began working with bigger canvases. By 1959, Wou-Ki stopped naming his works, instead just titling them with their dates of completion, in order to avoid ascribing any overt visual associations.


Zao Wou-Ki’s works can be found in private collections and more than 150 public collections around the world, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Guggenheim Museum, New York, and Tate Modern, London.