The Recollections of Françoise Marquet-Zao
Remarks compiled by Yann Hendgen
* Text written for the catalogue of the exhibition “The Youngest Among Us All: Zao Wou-Ki on Joan Miró” (20 May -23 July 2021, Mayoral, Paris).
Françoise Marquet-Zao, President of the Zao Wou-Ki Foundation, was the painter’s companion in his both artistic and personal life. She remains dedicated to promoting his life and work, to paying homage to the man and his art and en-suring that his work is known and appreciated for generations to come. In 2015 the Zao Wou-Ki Foundation embarked upon the first volume of the catalogue raisonné of paintings (1935–1958), which was published in November 2019. The latter two volumes (1959-1974 and 1975-2008) will be published in 2021-22.
Madame Marquet, herself a curator met many leading artists of the School of Paris. Here, the Mayoral gallery gratefully records her recollections of encounters between Zao Wou-Ki and Joan Miró and the history of their relationship.
Zao Wou-Ki and Joan Miró first met in 1952 at Galerie Pierre in Paris. In January 1951, through the intermediary of Henri Michaux, Zao Wou-Ki was visited by Pierre Loeb at his Parisian studio in Rue du Moulin-Vert. He was one of the group of artists championed by Loeb in the postwar years, alongside Maria-Helena Vieira da Silva, Jean-Paul Riopelle, Arpad Szenes, and Georges Mathieu. Joan Miró himself first exhibited at Galerie Pierre in 1925 and continued to do so almost every year until 1938. Zao Wou-Ki told me that Joan Miró came to the openings of all his exhibitions. Zao Wou-Ki was very touched by this sign of friendship and was always very grateful for it.
Although 27 years separate them in age, they frequented the same print workshops, such as that of Madeleine Lacourière in Paris and the Polígrafa studio in Barcelona. Joan Miró and Zao Wou-Ki shared friendships with Manuel de Muga, owner of Ediciones Polígrafa and the Joan Prats gallery in Barcelona. They also had many mutual friends, such as Eduardo Chillida and Antoni Tàpies, the museum director Jean Leymarie, who was very close to Joan Miró and wrote the first important monograph on Zao Wou-Ki’s work in 1978, and the art historian Kosme de Barañano. Pierre Matisse, who had been Joan Miró’s friend and dealer since the 1930s, got to know Zao Wou-Ki in the mid–1960s and also began representing him in the United States in 1980.
Josep Lluís Sert was another member of this circle. He built Miró’s studio in Palma de Mallorca in 1956. One day in 1970, he phoned Zao Wou-Ki to tell him that he had bought a hill in Ibiza and that he was planning to build six houses with studios there, for artists. He asked him if he would like to buy one, and Zao Wou-Ki said yes at once, without even having seen it. Zao Wou-Ki moved into his house in 1972 and built the studio a few years later, again according to Sert’s plans. From 1973 on, he stayed there regularly in both winter and summer with his wife Françoise. She recalls that during each stay they would dine with Josep Lluís at his house nearby. In 1988, at Françoise’s request, Zao Wou-Ki painted Homage to José Luis Sert – 14.07.88, to hang in the main living room of their house in Ibiza, looking out towards the sea.
In 1977, when Zao Wou-Ki and Françoise married, Joan Miró sent them a letter of congratulations, illustrated with his drawings on both sides and signed by himself and his wife Pilar.
In 1994, Zao Wou-Ki donated a painting from 1962 to the Fundació Joan Miró in Barcelona and, in his accompanying letter to its director, Rosa Maria Malet, explained that he was gifting the work “in memory of my long friendship with Joan Miró.”