Major show looks back on long career of Wu Guanzhong
If you want to look for me, find me in my works, as I am alive in them. -Wu Guanzhong
Two months after Wu Guanzhong, one of modern China's most forward-looking and admired artists, passed away, a special exhibition was opened on Monday to commemorate the 90-year-old master of Chinese painting, who did not want any memorial service to be held after his death and wanted his ashes scattered at sea.
The commemoration exhibition, held by Beijing Poly International Auction and Poly Arts Museum, showcases more than 100 delicated works of art, representing five decades of the artist's creative oeuvre and reflecting his fusion of Western modernism and traditional Chinese painting.
Art lovers will not only see some of the most acclaimed pieces such as The Ancient City of Jiaohe, The Grand Canyon in America, as well as Paradise of Little Birds , but also some rarely displayed pieces, such as his 1974 oil painting Panoramic View of the Yangtze River .
Wu, born in 1919 in Yixing, in East China's Jiangsu province, was trained as a painter in both China and later France, which helped establish his reputation for being good at integrating Chinese ink and brush painting with Western painting methods.
Wu was also known as a prolific writer of essays on art theory. Art historian Michael Sullivan once said that he and Vincent Van Gogh were rare examples of artists who were deeply thoughtful and articulate with both the brush and the pen.
In the 1980s, Wu became a darling of collectors at home and abroad and his works kept breaking records for Chinese paintings at public auctions. And he was also named by China's Hurun art list among the top five Chinese artists, ranking No 2 with total sales last year of around 200 million yuan ($29 million) in auctions around the world.
Just before his passing, his Panoramic View of the Yangtze River sold for 57.12 million yuan at the Hanhai spring auction in 2010.
In contrast with the skyrocketing price of his works, the artist always led a simple and frugal life. Wu donated his works to public museums several times. In 2008, he donated 113 of his works to the new National Art Gallery of Singapore, and later to public art museums in Beijing and Shanghai.
Just before his death, Wu donated five recent paintings to the Hong Kong Museum of Arts.
Unlike a previous commemoration exhibition held in Beijing's National Art Museum in July and others to be held in other public museums elsewhere, the artwork displayed in Poly Art Museum is different because it is all owned by different private collectors living in Beijing, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Indonesia, Singapore and other places.
"It is a rare and cherished opportunity to see them together and to once again be inspired by the artist through them," said Zhao Zhunwang, a famous Chinese artist and one of Wu's students.
The works exhibited are estimated to be valued at more than one billion yuan, according to the organizers. The exhibit will be open to the public for free from Aug 30 to Sept 6.