Lee Ufan

Korea, Republic Of 1936

Sculpture, Minimal Art


Lee Ufan
Lee Ufan
Korea, Republic Of
August 17, 2016

Korean painter, sculptor, and philosopher Lee Ufan became famous in the late 1960s as one of the main representatives of the Japanese avant-garde movement Mono-ha. This important movement, which gained a lot of international recognition, rejected Western concepts of representation and focused on the relationships between materials and perception. The main goal of Mono-ha was to embrace the peaceful coexistence of numerous beings, concepts, and experiences, which is evident in Lee Ufan’s paintings and sculptures. As a writer, Ufan has expressed the artistic concepts in Japan during the late 60s and he posed some truly fundamental questions, such as – what does it mean to produce a work of art at the end of the twentieth century? [1]

2016 june ” stone
Lee Ufan – From Line, 1978

Ufan’s Early Career: Between Korean and Japanese World of Art

Lee Ufan was born in 1936, in South Kyongsang province in Korea. He was interested in fine arts since his early childhood and he decided to enroll at the College of Fine Arts at Seoul National University. However, painting wasn’t his only passion – young Ufan was equally fascinated by philosophy, which made him move to Yokohama, Japan in 1956, where he studied philosophy at Nihon University. Since Ufan continued his education in Japan, he started painting in a traditional Japanese style while studying philosophy. When it comes to the contemporary Japanese Gutai school which was popular at the time, Ufan wasn’t interested in this form of expressive abstraction. In the late 1960s, the artist became an important member of the avant-garde Mono-ha movement which abandoned the typical Western practices of media manipulation in order to explore the depth of the relationship between various things and their surroundings. Moho-ha members often used raw physical materials in their work and their minimalism was an expression of de-westernization and de-modernisation, typical for the postwar Japanese society.

In the late 1960s, Lee Ufan became a member of the avant-garde Mono-ha school which abandoned the typical Western practices of media manipulation

 line contact
Lee Ufan – Relatum Dialogue, 2008

The Nature of Lee Ufan’s Works : Auster Simplicity of Stone

In the early 70s, for the occasion of Paris Youth Biennale, Mono-ha was introduced to Europe and this led to international recognition of Ufan’s artworks. Around the same time, he has opened his own studio in Paris. After Mono-ha became more popular in Europe, it became evident that it has a lot in common with Arte Povera, which also concentrates on the use of natural and found materials. When it comes to the nature of Lee Ufan’s work, it revolves around austere simplicity, minimalism and philosophical points of view. His abstract brushstrokes offer a unique perspective on the very nature of painting process and the same goes for his sculptures which investigate the very essence of steel and large stone pieces. One of the artist’s most famous series is called Relatum and it portrays the interaction between space and objects while simultaneously engaging the viewers in contemplation about the meaning of art. In 1991, he began his another iconic series called Correspondance, which consist of simple grey or blue brushstrokes applied onto a pristine white surface.

Ufan’s abstract brushstrokes offer a unique perspective on the nature of painting process

 line contact 2016 korean seoul south france
Lee Ufan – Dialogue, 2009

Ufan’s Major Exhibitions and Auctions

Lee Ufan had a long and prosperous career when it comes to academic jobs as well – he worked as a professor at Tama Art University in Tokyo for more than 30 years. In the meantime, his artworks became a part of the prestigious permanent collection at the Hiroshima City Museum and he participated in numerous solo and group exhibitions, including important shows at New York Pace Wildenstein and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.[2] Lee Ufan’s first solo exhibition was held in Japan in 1967 and after this successful debut, he was invited to participate in Documenta VI show in Kassel, Germany and in the Bienal de São Paulo. In 1997, Ufan had a major solo exhibit at the Jeu de Paume Paris, while in 2001 the Kunstmuseum Bonn held an important retrospective of his works. His most notable success happened during 2007 Venice Biennale, when his Resonance exhibition became widely appraised by both critiques and audience. Nowadays, Ufan’s paintings sell for six-figure sums at auctions. For example, his work from 1984 featuring a series of blue lines was sold for $410,000 at Sotheby’s in New York.

Ufan’s artworks became a part of the prestigious permanent collection at the Hiroshima City Museum

 june ” privacy policy terms 2011
Lee Ufan – Relatum Dissonance, 2012

Exploring the Interaction Between Space and Objects

Ufan’s minimalist installations and sculptures which emphasize the relationship between the artworks, the viewer, and the space seem timeless in their simplicity and universal appeal. The same goes for his paintings, which resemble Asian calligraphy because of the interplay of bold line strokes and plain backgrounds. Ufan was honoured for having contributed to the development of contemporary art in Japan, which speaks about the extraordinary importance and quality of his pieces.[3]

The artist is represented by Pace Gallery Beijing, Pace Gallery Hong Kong, Pace Gallery London, Pace Gallery Menlo Park and Scai the Bathhouse Tokyo.

Lee Ufan lives and works between Kamakura, Japan, and Paris, France.


  1. Ufan, Lee, Encounter with the Other, Steidl, 2008.
  2. studioleeufan.org
  3. wikipedia.org

Featured image: Lee Ufan’s Portrait – image via asiasociety.org
All other images courtesy of the artist.

YearExhibition TitleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group
2016When Process Becomes Form: Dansaekhwa and Korean AbstractionBoghossian Foundation, Brussels, BelgiumGroup
2016Dansaekhwa & MinimalismBlum & Poe, Los AngelesGroup
2016Dansaekhwa & MinimalismBlum & Poe, New YorkGroup
2016Lee Ufan Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, RussiaSolo
2016Lee UfanChateau La Coste, Le Puy-Sainte-Reparade, FranceSolo
2015Lee Ufan - Solo ShowLisson Gallery, LondonSolo
2014Lee Ufan - One Man Show  Gary Tatintsian Gallery Inc., MoscowSolo
2014Lee Ufan - Solo ExhibitKaikai Kiki Gallery, TokyoSolo
2014The Hara Museum Collection35 Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, TokyoGroup
2014From All Sides: Tansaekhwa On AbstractionBlum & Poe, Los Angeles, CAGroup
2014Botero, Ufan Lee, Tschang-Yeul KimGalerie Bhak, SeoulGroup
2014B L A N K _ S P A C E (Group Exhibition)Galerie m Bochum, BochumGroup
2014The Art of DansaekhwaKukje Gallery, SeoulGroup
2014Friendly TakeoverMARTa Herford, HerfordGroup
2014Formes simplesCentre Pompidou-Metz, MetzGroup
2014Genius Loci – Spirit of PlacePalazzo Cavalli Franchetti, VeniceGroup
2014Other Primary Structures. Others 2The Jewish Museum of New York, New York City, NYGroup
2014Korean Beauty: Two Kinds of NatureNational Museum Of Contemporary Art Korea,SeoulGroup
2014Mingei are your here?The Pace Gallery - 508 West 25th Street, New York City, NYGroup
20141970Arario Gallery Cheonan, Cheonan-siGroup
2014The Artistic Spirits of Modern Artists on PaperGallery Hyundai, SeoulGroup
2014Making Links: 25 yearsSCAI the Bathhouse, TokyoGroup
2013Lee Ufan - Solo ShowGalerie Kamel Mennour, ParisSolo
2013Tansaekhwa and the Urgency of MethodWellside Gallery, SeoulGroup
2013Mingei: Are You Here?Pace London, LondonGroup
2013Takahashi Collection Mindfulness!Sapporp Art Museum, Sapporo, HokkaidoGroup
2013Word + Work Galerie nächst St. Stephan - Rosemarie Schwarzwälder, Vienna Group
2013Takahashi Collection Mindfulness!Kirishima Open-Air Museum, KagoshimaGroup
2013Art Arch Hiroshima 2013Hiroshima Prefectural Art Museum, HiroshimaGroup
2013Setouchi Triennale 2013Setouchi Triennale, TakamatsuGroup
2013Black & White. Reason and PassionLorenzelli Arte, MilanGroup
2012Galleria Grafica Collection No.20Galleria Grafica Tokyo, TokyoGroup
2012Without Shape a Thinking Format that Transcends the MediumDa Xiang Art Space, TaichungGroup
2012Aufbruch - Malerei Und Realer RaumKunsthalle Rostock, RostockGroup
2012Play it again, SamGalerie m Bochum, BochumGroup
2012AufbruchMuseum im Kulturspeicher, WürzburgGroup
2012Summer Group ShowThe Pace Gallery - 32 East 57th Street, New York City, NYGroup
2012Requiem for the Sun: The Art of Mono-haGladstone Gallery - New York, New York City, NYGroup
2012Aufbruch. Malerei und realer RaumAdK - Akademie der Künste, BerlinGroup
2012The Persistence of PollockPollock-Krasner House and Study Center, East Hampton, NYGroup
2012Dansaekhwa: Korean Monochrome PaintingNational Museum of Contemporary Art Korea - Gwacheon, GwacheonGroup
20122012-1 Building: Art in Relation to ArchitectureHiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art,HiroshimaGroup
2012Asia Week at Pace Prints Pace Prints, New York City, NYGroup
2012The virtue of design furnitureHakgojae - Sokyuk, SeoulGroup
2012Requiem For The Sun: The Art Of Mono-haBlum & Poe, Los Angeles, CAGroup
2012Group ExhibitionLisson Gallery Milan, MilanGroup
2012Aufbruch - Malerei und realer RaumMuseum Pfalzgalerie Kaiserslautern, KaiserslauternGroup
2012Master Drawings New YorkBarbara Mathes Gallery, New York City, NYGroup
2011Lee Ufan: Marking InfinitySolomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York City, NYSolo
2011Painting and SculptureGalerie Thaddaeus Ropac, SalzburgSolo
2011Lee U-FanGallery A-zone, OkayamaSolo
2011Lee UfanSCAI the Bathhouse, TokyoSolo
2011Recent EditionsPace Prints, New York City, NYGroup
2011Beijing Voice 2011: Leaving Realism BehindPace Beijing, BeijingGroup
2011The Breath of MasterGalerie Bhak, SeoulGroup
2011Tell me Tell me: Australian and Korean art 1976-2011National Museum of Contemporary Art Korea, GwacheonGroup
2011A Dream of Eternity: The Artist Long Time East - Villa EmpainBoghossian Foundation,BrusselsGroup
2011Art Against Trafficking In Women And Sexual ExploitationGalerie Urs Meile, Beijing-Lucerne,LucerneGroup
2011A BrushstrokeHakgojae - Sokyuk, SeoulGroup
2011Pure ClayRH Gallery, New York City, NYGroup
2011Personal Structures54. Biennale di Venezia - Global Art Affairs Foundation, Leiden Group
2011The World Belongs to YouPalazzo Grassi - Francois Pinault Foundation, VeniceGroup
2011Silence and TimeDallas Museum of Art, Dallas, TXGroup
2011Colour moves SurfaceLorenzelli Arte, MilanGroup
2011Nam June Paik . Lee U FanSong Art Gallery, SeoulGroup
2011Shelter - Art Against Trafficking in Women and Sexual ExploitationPeter Freeman, Inc., New York City, NYGroup
2010Lee Ufan - ResonanceGalería Elvira González, MadridSolo
2010Micro salon 60BTAP (Beijing Tokyo Art Projects), TokyoGroup
2010Expanding ArtMie Prefectural Art Museum, Tsu CityGroup
2010The Vision of Contemporary ArtArtsonje Museum, Gyeongju BomunGroup
2010Tauba Auerbach, Matthew Day Jackson, R.H. Quaytman, etc…Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, ParisGroup
2010Collector's FavoriteGallery Hyundai, SeoulGroup
2010Painting, Process and ExpansionMuseum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig - MUMOK , ViennaGroup
2010RedJohyun Gallery, SeoulGroup
2010Personal Structures: Time – Space – ExistenceGeorg Kargl Fine Arts & Georg Kargl Box,Vienna Group
2010Collection Exhibition First TermToyota Municipal Museum of Art, Toyota AichiGroup
2010Old & newJohyun Gallery, SeoulGroup
2010Colorless ColorsHakgojae - Sokyuk, SeoulGroup
2010Personal Structures | Time - Space - ExistenceKünstlerhaus Palais Thurn & Taxis BV:BKV,BregenzGroup
2010Art for YouLeeahn Gallery, DaeguGroup
2009Lee Ufan - Painting and SculptureGalerie Thaddaeus Ropac, ParisSolo
2009Lee Ufan - SculptureKukje Gallery, SeoulSolo
2009Doubou DoushiMuseum Haus Kasuya, Yokosuka-cityGroup
2009Essential Experiences - Palazzo RisoMuseo d’Arte Contemporanea della Sicilia, PalermoGroup
200915th Anniversary Inaugural ExhibitionBlum & Poe, Los Angeles, CAGroup
2009Minimal MeansInitial Access Frank Cohen Collection, WolverhamptonGroup
2009Lisson Presents 5 Lisson Gallery, London Group
2009Four Stories : Paths to Japanese Modern ArtKawamura Memorial Museum of Art, ChibaGroup
2009Boule to BraidLisson Gallery, London Group
2009A Walk in the Park: Outdoor SculpturePaceWildenstein - The Pace Gallery - 545 West 22nd Street, New York City, NYGroup
2009In-finitum Palazzo Fortuny, VeniceGroup
2009Kim Tschang Yeul, Park Seo-Bo, Lee UfanJohyun Gallery, BusanGroup
2008Lee U Fan - Solo Show123 Gallery, SeoulSolo
2008Contemporary Art for 30 years PART 1Kamakura Gallery, KanagawaGroup
2008Paik Namjune, Lee WoohwanGallery Mano, SeoulGroup
2008Mediation Biennale 08Mediations Biennale, PoznanGroup
2008Summer of Contemporary ArtChiba City Museum of Art, ChibaGroup
2008The Thin Line of ShadowGalleria Davide Di Maggio, MilanGroup
2008Sensitive SystemsHakgojae - Sokyuk, SeoulGroup
2007Lee Ufan Collection ExhibitionGallery Micah, SeoulSolo
2007Lee Ufan: Correspondence Paintings 1995 – 2005Fergus McCaffrey Gallery, New York City, NYSolo
2007Modern and Contemporary MastersHanart TZ Gallery, Hong KongGroup
2007BlueJohyun Gallery, SeoulGroup
2007Void in Korean Art - LeeumSamsung Museum of Art, SeoulGroup
2007Gallery Road To The Museum Master Piece CollectionGallery Road to the Museum, SeoulGroup
2007Fundacion shelterGalería Carreras Múgica (former Colón XVI), BilbaoGroup
2007Fundacion shelterGalerìa Guillermo de Osma, MadridGroup
2007Selections from the Hara Museum´s Permanent CollectionHara Museum of Contemporary Art,TokyoGroup
2007Time is always now!Galerie m Bochum, BochumGroup
2007Poetry in MotionGalerie Beyeler, BaselGroup
2007What is Mono-ha?Beijing Tokyo Art Projects, BeijingGroup
2007Time RecordedFergus McCaffrey Gallery, New York City, NYGroup
2007Elastic TaboosKunsthalle Wien (Museumsquartier),ViennaGroup
20066th Gwangju Biennale 2006Gwangju Biennale, GwangjuGroup
2006Motion On PaperBen Brown Fine Arts, LondonGroup
2006Summertime - Reflexion - SelbstreflexionGalerie m Bochum, BochumGroup
2006Und es bewegt sich doch …Kunstmuseum Bochum, BochumGroup
2006Contemporary Prints Applying PhotographyNational Museum of Modern Art Tokyo (MOMAT),TokyoGroup
2006Modern Japanese Art from the Museum CollectionNational Museum of Modern Art Tokyo (MOMAT), TokyoGroup
200610th Anniversary Show: Vision II: 1995-2005 Collection Of The MuseumToyota Municipal Museum of Art, Toyota AichiGroup
2005The Art of MarginsYokohama Museum of Art, Nishi-ku, YokohamaSolo
2005Contemporary art of KoreaBusan Museum of Art, BusanGroup
2005Reconsidering - Mono-haNMAO National Museum of Art Osaka, OsakaGroup
2005The 35th Anniversary Exhibition - Part 2Gallery Hyundai, SeoulGroup
2005Japanese, Korean and Chinese ArtBTAP (Beijing Tokyo Art Projects), TokyoGroup
2004BlueKamakura Gallery, KanagawaGroup
2004Why not live for Art?Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery, TokyoGroup
2003Lee Ufan - The Search for Encounter - PLATEAUSamsung Museum of Art, SeoulSolo
2003Tradition and InnovationGallery Hyundai, SeoulGroup
2003Happiness - A Survival Guide for Art and LifeMori Art Museum, TokyoGroup
2003Artsonje Collection HighlightsArtsonje Museum, Gyeongju BomunGroup
2003KaigaKamakura Gallery, KanagawaGroup
2003Art of Modern JapanNational Museum of Modern Art Tokyo (MOMAT), TokyoGroup
2003Anni '70 '80 '90Lorenzelli Arte, MilanGroup
2003TransitionSCAI the Bathhouse, TokyoGroup
2002Les années 70 : l’art en causeCAPC - Musée d'art contemporain, BordeauxGroup
2002APT 2002 - Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art 2002Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art, Brisbane, QLDGroup
2001Lee Ufan - Gemälde 1973 - 2001Kunstmuseum Bonn, BonnSolo
2001Kunst für ShelterMuseum Wiesbaden, WiesbadenGroup
2001Silence ViolenceSCAI the Bathhouse, TokyoGroup
2001IKIRO Be alive - Contemporary art from Japan – 1980 to the presentKröller-Müller Museum,OtterloGroup
2001VisionToyota Municipal Museum of Art, Toyota AichiGroup
2001ShelterGalerie m Bochum, BochumGroup
2000Mr. PaintGalerie Monika Reitz, FrankfurtGroup
20002000 Shanghai Biennale - Spirit of ShanghaiShanghai Biennale, ShanghaiGroup
2000Japanese contemporary art '60-'80Kamakura Gallery, KanagawaGroup
2000Wood WorksKamakura Gallery, KanagawaGroup
1999Korean Art of 50 yearsGallery Hyundai, SeoulGroup
1999Kwang-Young Chun, Chan-Young Kim, Nam June Paik, Ufan Lee KoreanGalerie Conny Dietzschold, CologneGroup
1999Japanese Contemporary Prints I: Kano Mitsuo, Nakanishi Natsuyuki, Lee Ufan, Wakabayashi IsamuKamakura Annex, KanagawaGroup
1998Lee Ufan - Bilder und SkulpturenStädel Museum, FrankfurtSolo
1995Lee Ufan - Entsprechungen - SetzungenGalerie m Bochum, BochumSolo
1990Lee U-Fan - Sculpture worksKamakura Gallery, KanagawaSolo
1990Aus der SammlungKunsthalle Nürnberg, NurembergGroup
1990Bestandsaufnahme VIIGalerie m Bochum, BochumGroup
1990Blau - Farbe der FerneHeidelberger Kunstverein, HeidelbergGroup
1989Europalia JapanSMAK Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst, GhentGroup
1989Drawing as itselfNMAO National Museum of Art Osaka, OsakaGroup
1985Lee U-Fan - Sculpture worksKamakura Gallery, KanagawaSolo
1978Lee Ufan - SkulpturenGalerie m Bochum, BochumSolo
1978Lee U-Fan - From point - From line Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, DusseldorfSolo