Vieira da Silva and Zao Wou-Ki

The Window tapestry by Maria Helena Vieira da Silva and the drawing by Zao Wou-Ki are different in date, but brought together by style, as well as friendship. The drawing entered the collection as part of a gift of works from the Portuguese artist, who knew Zao, who had come to Paris in 1948. Somewhat younger than Vieira, he went to study at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière where she too had studied before the war. They probably met at the gallery Nina Dausset, and mixed with other émigré artists, including Riopelle and Sam Francis, from North America. Perhaps like his Portuguese colleague, Zao seemed to return to a non-Western tradition (in his case Chinese calligraphy) by means of the new freedoms allowed by abstraction. Zao and Vieira shared a gallery, in the form of Pierre Loeb, as well as a mutual friend, the Portuguese painter and ceramicist, Manuel Cargaleiro, who later introduced Zao’s work into the city of Lisbon in the form of a commission for public art at the Oriente station. Beyond the expression of international friendship, this combination of works represents the importance of the decorative tradition, first for Calouste Gulbenkian himself, and later for his foundation, in terms of the commissions they promoted, and the decorative schemes within the building.

Penelope Curtis, curator

Updated on 06 october 2016

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