SHARE
COPY LINK

ART

Franco-Swiss feud splits Chinese painter’s family

Zao Wou-ki, the abstract painter and Swiss resident who has been described as China's greatest living artist, is at the centre of a bitter legal feud between his third wife and his son from a previous marriage.

Franco-Swiss feud splits Chinese painter's family
The artist in front of one of his works (Photo/Screenshot: Pantalaskas)

At the heart of a battle ripping the family apart lies the contested ownership of eight works worth millions of dollars.

The son, Jia-Ling Zhao, believes that Zao, who is 91 and has suffered from Alzheimer's disease since at least 2005, was moved to Switzerland in 2011 against his will.

The Beijing-born artist left China for Paris before the Communist Party took over the country and has been a French citizen since 1964.

"Zao had been in France since 1948, he is very attached to the country and never expressed any desire to leave it," said his son's lawyer, Jean-Philippe Hugot.

His wife, Francoise Marquet, a former curator of the Museum of Modern Art in Paris now based in the Lake Geneva region, stands to inherit a greater part of the artist's estate than she would have done had they stayed in France.

She asserts that Switzerland offers the best environment for his health and for preserving his assets, both financial and artistic.

Marquet has created a foundation in Switzerland to promote her husband's work, prompting protests from the son that both he and his father are now excluded from the management of his collection.

"Zao Wou-Ki is doing well, the move to Switzerland has been beneficial for him," Pierre Genon-Catalot, the lawyer for Marquet insisted.

"He is much better physically."

Zao's son, however, is not convinced and he has pursued legal action on two fronts.

A request to a Paris court for him to be granted power of attorney over his father's affairs was rejected after the judge ruled that he could not rule on the decision since Zao was now resident in Switzerland.

The son is appealing that ruling and a decision is due on December 4th.

In parallel with that request, Jia-Ling Zhao has since May been pursuing his mother-in-law for allegedly abusing a person weakened by illness and has secured the opening of a preliminary investigation by the French authorities.

Marquet, meanwhile, has, through the Swiss courts, secured joint power of attorney over her husband and his estate along with a Swiss national, Marc Bonnant.

That decision, which has enabled Marquet to sell some of her husband's works, is being challenged by the son, who is seeking to be legally recognised as jointly responsible for his father.

He also accuses his mother-in-law of having moved eight paintings that have belonged to him since Zao divorced his mother in 1958.

Marquet's lawyer, Genon-Catalot, dismissed that suggestion.

"He has made that claim knowing that Zao can no longer respond to him."
   
He added that the artist had always lived by selling his works and that the most recent sales had been authorized by a Swiss judge.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

ARCHITECTURE

Futuristic Gehry tower opens in World Heritage Arles

Rising high beyond an ancient Roman arena in Arles, a tall, twisted tower created by Frank Gehry shimmers in the sun, the latest futuristic addition to this southern French city known for its World Heritage sites.

Futuristic Gehry tower opens in World Heritage Arles
Gehry's Luma Tower opens in Arles, France. Photo: H I / Pixabay

The tower, which opens to the public on Saturday, is the flagship attraction of a new “creative campus” conceived by the Swiss Luma arts foundation that wants to offer artists a space to create, collaborate and showcase their work.

Gehry, the 92-year-old brain behind Bilbao’s Guggenheim museum and Los Angeles’ Walt Disney Concert Hall, wrapped 11,000 stainless steel panels around his tower above a huge glass round base.

It will house contemporary art exhibitions, a library, and offices, while the Luma Arles campus as a whole will host conferences and live performances.

From a distance, the structure reflects the changing lights of this town that inspired Van Gogh, capturing the whiteness of the limestone Alpilles mountain range nearby which glows a fierce orange when the sun sets.

Mustapha Bouhayati, the head of Luma Arles, says the town is no stranger to
imposing monuments; its ancient Roman arena and theatre have long drawn the
crowds.

The tower is just the latest addition, he says. “We’re building the heritage of tomorrow.”

Luma Arles spreads out over a huge former industrial wasteland.

Maja Hoffmann, a Swiss patron of the arts who created the foundation, says
the site took seven years to build and many more years to conceive.

Maja Hoffmann, founder and president of the Luma Foundation. Photo: Pascal GUYOT / AFP

Aside from the tower, Luma Arles also has exhibition and performance spaces in former industrial buildings, a phosphorescent skatepark created by South Korean artist Koo Jeong A and a sprawling public park conceived by Belgian landscape architect Bas Smets.

‘Arles chose me’

The wealthy great-granddaughter of a founder of Swiss drug giant Roche, Hoffmann has for years been involved in the world of contemporary art, like her grandmother before her.

A documentary producer and arts collector, she owns photos by Annie Leibovitz and Diane Arbus and says she hung out with Jean-Michel Basquiat in New York.

Her foundation’s stated aim is to promote artists and their work, with a special interest in environmental issues, human rights, education and culture.

She refuses to answer a question on how much the project in Arles cost. But as to why she chose the 53,000-strong town, Hoffmann responds: “I did not choose Arles, Arles chose me.”

She moved there as a baby when her father Luc Hoffmann, who co-founded WWF,
created a reserve to preserve the biodiversity of the Camargue, a region between the Mediterranean Sea and the Rhone river delta known for its pink flamingos.

The tower reflects that, with Camargue salt used as mural panels and the
delta’s algae as textile dye.

Hoffmann says she wants her project to attract more visitors in the winter, in a town where nearly a quarter of the population lives under the poverty line.

Some 190 people will be working at the Luma project over the summer, Bouhayati says, adding that Hoffman has created an “ecosystem for creation”.

SHOW COMMENTS