Chinese abstract painter Zao Wou-ki dies aged 93

ZURICH (REUTERS) - Chinese abstract master Zao Wou-ki, whose works routinely fetch millions of dollars at auction, has died in Switzerland aged 93.

Mr Marc Bonnant, a lawyer for his widow, told Reuters that Mr Zao, who suffered from Alzheimer's, had died on Tuesday 10 days after being admitted to hospital.

Born in Beijing, Mr Zao moved to Paris in 1948 before the Communist takeover of his country. In Europe, he was inspired by artists like Paul Klee, Alberto Giacometti and Joan Miro and had his first solo exhibition in New York in 1959.

He became a French citizen in 1964 and returned to China in 1972 for the first time since leaving.

Mr Zao's son from a previous marriage, Mr Jialing Zhao, had fought a legal battle with his third wife Francoise Marquet over guardianship of the artist, Swiss media reported.

Renowned for combining Chinese and European influences, his painting 25.06.86 sold in Hong Kong last year for HK$25.3 million (S$4.04 million), a world record for the artist at auction.

Soaring Chinese demand has driven prices for expensive art and luxury goods in recent years although that trend has cooled along with the pace of growth of China's economy.