Lee Ufan

Lee Ufan (Korean, b. 1936) is a philosopher and minimalist sculptor and painter, trained and educated in Japan. Having studied modern Western philosophy in the 1950s at Nihon University, Lee became a prominent member of the avant-garde Mono-ha group, beginning in the late 1960s. 

The art of this artist, who has long been based in Japan, is rooted in an Eastern appreciation of the nature of materials and also in modern European phenomenology. The origin of Mono-ha may be found in Lee‘s article "Sonzai to mu wo koete Sekine Nobuo ron (Beyond Being and Nothingness - A Thesis on Sekine Nobuo."

The Mono-ha artists aimed to deviate from typical Western artistic practices of media manipulation, and instead juxtaposed objects and materials in such a way as to draw attention to the relationship between things and surroundings. Lee’s paintings are frequently characterized by simple, abstract brushstrokes in dark blue and gray tones, applied to white canvases or surfaces. His sculptures, such as his prolific Relatumseries, often portray a similarly antithetical relationship by placing round or flat natural stones alongside rectangular plates of iron and steel. 

In keeping with his background in philosophy, Lee strives to engage viewers in contemplating the interaction between space, objects, and themselves. From 1973 until 2007, Lee served as a professor at Tama Art University in Tokyo. His work is part of the permanent collection at the Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art, and has been the subject of numerous solo exhibitions, including shows at New York’s Pace Wildenstein and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Lee Ufan currently lives and works in Kamakura, Japan, and in Paris, France.


2018 'East meets West', SmithDavidson Gallery, Okt - Dec, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

2016 26 October–19 November LEE UFAN - Solo Exhibition, Gow Langsford gallery, Auckland

2016 14 April–21 May Group Exhibition Dansaekhwa and Minimalism, Blum & Poe, New York

2016 20 February–24 April, When Process Becomes Form: Dansaekhwa and Korean Abstraction

The Boghossian Foundation, Brussels (curated by Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath)

2015 Palazzo Contarini Polignac, Venice, Italy 

2014 Château de Versailles, France  

2014 13 September–8 November, From All Sides: Tansaekhwa on Abstraction, Blum & Poe, Los Angeles (curated by Joan Kee)

2014 31 January–8 March, Group show - Making Links: 25 Years, Scai the bathouse, Tokio

2014, Lee was the seventh guest artist selected for the contemporary art program of the Palace of Versailles. 

2013 Le Capitole, “Les Rencontres d’Arles”, Arles, France. Also in Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature, Paris, France 

2012 Asia Society Texas Center, Houston, USA 

2012 6 December–9 December Art Basel Miami Beach, Scai the bathouse, Tokio

2011, Lee Ufan: Marking Infinity was exhibited at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City, organized by curator Alexandra Munroe, with over 90 works, from the 1960s to the present.

2011 Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, USA. 

2008 Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels, Belgium. Also in Dahlem Museum, Berlin, Germany and Pace Wildenstein, New York, USA

2007 Resonance, 52nd Venice Biennale, Palazzo Palumbo Fossati, Venice, Italy

2007 Lee’s "Resonance" exhibition at Palazzo Palumbo Fossati during the Venice Biennale

2006, The Situation Kunst (für Max Imdahl), a museum associated with Ruhr University Bochum in Germany, opened with a gallery devoted to a permanent installation of Lee Ufan's paintings and a garden of his sculpture.

2005 Major exhibitions of Lee's painting and sculpture were later held at the Yokohama Museum of Art.

2005 the Musée d'art Moderne Saint-Etienne in France.

2005 Yokohama Museum of Art, Yokohama, Japan

Musée d’Art Moderne, Saint-Étienne, France

2004 Espace d’Art Contemporain Fernet-Branca, Saint-Louis, France       

2003 Samsung Museum of Contemporary Art, Seoul, South Korea

2001 Kunstmuseum, Bonn, Germany

2001 the Kunstmuseum Bonn held a major retrospective of his work. 

1998 Städtisches Museum im Städel, Frankfurt, Germany. Also in Niigata City Art Museum, Niigata, Japan

1997, solo exhibition at the ‘Jeu de Paume', Paris  

1997 Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume, Paris, France

1995 Städtisches Museum, Leverkusen, Germany

1994 Fondazione Mudima, Milan, Italy. Also in The National Museum of Contemporary Art, Seoul, South Korea

1993 The Museum of Modern Art, Kamakura, Japan

1992 Tate Liverpool exhibition, "Working With Nature: Traditional Thought in Contemporary Art from Korea”, the first major survey of Korean art shown in Britain.

1991 Hara Museum ARC, Gunma, Japan

1967, ‘Documenta VI’ (1977), Kassel - invited by Manfred Schneckenburger

1989 Galerie de Paris, Paris, France

1988 The Museum of Fine Arts, Gifu, Japan. Also in Padiglione d’Arte Contemporanea, Milan, Italy

1982 Studio Marconi, Milan, Italy

1979 Skulpturenmuseum Glaskasten, Marl, Germany

1978 Kunsthalle, Düsseldorf, Germany. Also in Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk, Denmark. 

1969 and 1973, Bienal de São Paulo

Born in South Korea on November 30th, 1935

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