Zao Wou-ki At Colby

Marronnier (Chestnut), 1955, oil on canvas, 39 1/2” x 25 1/2” (Picker Art Gallery, Colgate University. Gift of Harvey Picker ’36. © Zao Wou-Ki/ProLitteris, Zurich).


Jamie Thompson

The Chinese meaning of “Wou-Ki” is “without limitation,” an appropriate moniker for an artist who worked in several media and blended disparate styles to shape his own unique vision. “No Limits: Zao Wou-Ki” is the first retrospective of his work in the United States, and it serves to reinvigorate interest in this enigmatic artist.

The exhibition began at New York City’s Asia Society Museum, and will be on view at Colby College Museum of Art in Waterville, Maine from February 4 to June 4. The show is co-curated by Dr. Ankeney Weitz and Dr. Melissa Walt of Colby College, and Michelle Yun of Asia Society.

Zao Wou-Ki was born in 1920 in Beijing, and emigrated from Shanghai to Paris in 1948. He soon settled into the European art scene and gained international recognition. Today, Chinese artists are very much a part of the global contemporary art scene, but that was not the case in 1948. Zao’s “success served as a model for subsequent generations of Chinese artists,” said Walt.

Zao’s work was very popular with American collectors and museums during the 1950s and ‘60s, but since then, he has not been well-known to American viewers. The last museum show of his art on American soil was a 1968 solo exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Art.

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