Brush with fame

By Zhu Linyong (China Daily)
Updated: 2008-03-11 09:42

Zhouzhuang Village, ink-and-color, 1985.

Wu Guanzhong, 89, is a living legend on the Chinese art scene. When the veteran artist speaks, people listen; when his paintings are auctioned, people rush to buy.

The Jiangsu-born painter, who some say has transformed modern Chinese art, has once again become a focus of attention over the past weeks.

Early this month,, a leading art website in China, ranked Wu high on its Artists of the Year list in recognition of the high prices that his paintings have fetched as well as his controversial remarks concerning Chinese art circles.

Wu also tops the newly released 2008 Hurun Contemporary Art List for his record-setting sales figures of more than 370 million yuan ($52 million).

At the 2007 Poly Spring Auction last May alone, Wu's colored ink painting Ruins of Jiaohe fetched over 40.7 million yuan ($5.7 million), the highest figure paid at auction for a piece by a mainland artist.

The opening of Wu's latest solo art exhibition at the 798 Art Zone, which usually displays contemporary Chinese art by young artists, drew a large number of fans.

And jaws dropped when the 89-year-old said: "Coming to the 798 Art Zone is like coming home."

"I am 89 years old. But that does not mean I am too old to learn and try new tricks," Wu said to a packed house of fans and journalists.

Indeed, the 50-plus paintings on show stunned many attending the exhibition.

"On first seeing these dynamic yet poetic paintings, you would never imagine they are from the hands of a painter of that age," says Jia Fangzhou, the curator of the exhibition.

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