Lee Ufan: Marking Infinity

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Installation view of LeeU-fanSculptureExhibition, KamakuraGallery,Tokyo, January 10–26,1985

Installation view of Lee U-fan Sculpture Exhibition, Kamakura Gallery, Tokyo, January 10–26, 1985. Pictured: Four Relatum works (1984–85). Photo by Yamamoto Soroku, courtesy the artist and Tokyo Gallery

The Gwangju Democratization Movement, a nine-day popular uprising in Gwangju against President Chun Doo-hwan’s military dictatorship, is violently crushed by the South Korean army.

After a breakdown in the late 1970s, Lee begins to paint with loose, dynamic brushstrokes. This new approach will lead to two major series of works of the next decade,From Winds and With Winds.

Lee moves to Kamakura, a twelfth-century city near Tokyo, where he currently resides.


Lee’s sculptures take a dynamic turn, incorporating curved steel panels with jagged edges propped between and around stones. These new Relatum works are first displayed in solo exhibitions at Galerie de Paris in 1984 and Kamakura Gallery, Tokyo, in 1985

Cover of the catalogue for the exhibition Japondes avant-gardes1910–1970, Musée National d’Arte Moderne,Centre GeorgesPompidou, Paris,December 11, 1986–March 2, 1987

Cover of the catalogue for the exhibition Japon des avant-gardes 1910–1970, Musée National d’Arte Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, December 11, 1986–March 2, 1987

Numerous important museum exhibitions further establish Lee and Mono-ha on an international stage, includingJapon des avant-gardes 1910–1970 at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris. The exhibition coincides with a display of Lee’s watercolors and drawings from 1964 to 1986 in the Pompidou’s permanent-collection galleries.

Lee Ufan, Sekine Nobuo, Suga Kishio, KoshimizuSusumu, andYoshidaKatsuro at Art in Japan since1969: Mono-ha andPost-Mono-ha,SeibuMuseum ofArt, Tokyo, June 25, 1987

Lee Ufan, Sekine Nobuo, Suga Kishio, Koshimizu Susumu, and Yoshida Katsuro at Art in Japan since 1969: Mono-ha and Post-Mono-ha, Seibu Museum of Art, Tokyo, June 25, 1987. Photo by ANZAï © 1987 ANZAï, courtesy ANZAï Photo Archive, National Art Center, Tokyo

Lee is included in the first large-scale museum exhibition on Mono-ha in Japan, Art in Japan since 1969: Mono-ha and Post-Mono-ha, curated by Minemura Toshiaki at the Seibu Museum of Art, Tokyo.

Installation view ofMonoha:Lascuola delle cose, Museo Laboratorio diArte Contemporanea,Rome,April 29–October 15, 1988

Installation view of Monoha: La scuola delle cose, Museo Laboratorio di Arte Contemporanea, Rome, April 29–October 15, 1988. Foreground: Lee Ufan, Relatum—two steel plates and four stones, 1978. Photo by ANZAï © 1988 ANZAï, courtesy ANZAï Photo Archive, National Art Center, Tokyo

Lee is featured in Monoha: La scuola delle cose at the Museo Laboratorio di Arte Contemporanea in Rome.

Lee presents solo exhibitions in Japan and Europe, including Traces of Sensibility and Logic at the Museum of Fine Arts, Gifu, Japan, and Ex Oriente at the Padiglione d’Arte Contemporanea, Milan. The Ex Oriente catalogue includes an essay by French critic Pierre Restany and Italian translations of Lee’s short essays.

South Korea hosts the Olympic Games in Seoul. This international platform helps the nation’s transition from a military dictatorship to a democracy gain momentum. North Korea boycotts the games after their demands to jointly host are largely denied by the International Olympic Committee. These Olympics are the last that the Soviet Union and East Germany participate in before their dissolution.

The Berlin Wall falls after radical political changes in East Germany and subsequent weeks of intense civil unrest. German reunification formally concludes in 1990.

Emperor Hirohito dies, ending a sixty-three-year reign and triggering calls by China and Korea for Japanese apologies and retributions for damages wrought during World War II.

Lee is included in Minimal Art, the first comparative exhibition of Mono-ha and Minimalism, organized by Tatehata Akira at the National Museum of Art, Osaka.

Lee mounts his first solo exhibition at Ingong Gallery in Seoul, founded by Hwang Hyunwook, who introduces Lee to Donald Judd and Richard Long.

The French Ministry of Culture names Lee a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.

Lee’s continuing interest in the mediation between the painted and unpainted ground of his canvases leads to his Correspondance series. These works feature a few gray brushstrokes rhythmically placed on large white canvases or multiple, screenlike panels. The first major presentation from this series occurs at Lee’s solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, Kamakura, in 1993.

Lee Ufan, Relatum, 1969/1994

Lee Ufan, Relatum, 1969/1994. Cotton and stones, 80 x 70 x 170 cm. Courtesy Kamakura Gallery, Tokyo. Installation view: Japanese Art after 1945: Scream Against the Sky, Guggenheim Museum SoHo, New York, September 14, 1994–January 18, 1995. Photo: David Heald © Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York

Lee stages multiple solo shows, including large-scale exhibitions at the Fondazione Mudima, Milan, and at the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Korea, in Gwacheon.

Lee is included in the exhibitionJapanese Art after 1945: Scream Against the Sky, a landmark in introducing postwar Japanese art to American audiences. Curated by Alexandra Munroe, the show opens at the Yokohama Museum of Art before traveling to the Guggenheim Museum SoHo, New York, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Lee is featured in Matter and Perception 1970: Mono-ha and the Search for Fundamentals at the Museum of Fine Arts, Gifu, Japan. The exhibition travels to the Musée d’Arte Moderne de Saint-Étienne Métropole, France, and is accompanied by the most comprehensive catalogue on the movement to date.


Lisson Gallery, London, publishes a collection of Lee’s writings in English, Selected Writings by Lee Ufan 1970–96, to accompany his first exhibition at the gallery.

Lee becomes the first Asian artist to be the subject of a solo exhibition at the Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume de Paris. The exhibition includes paintings from the Correspondance series.

At the recommendation of Alfred Pacquement, director of the Centre Georges Pompidou, Lee is invited to serve as a visiting professor at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris.

Lee’s exhibitions in Germany increase in frequency, including shows at the Städelsches Kunstinstitut und Städtische Galerie, Frankfurt, in 1998 and at the Museum Ludwig, Cologne, in 1999.

Lee Ufan with Relatum—Holzwege II(2000)

Lee Ufan with Relatum—Holzwege II (2000). Situation Kunst Foundation, Haus Weitmar Park, Bochum, Germany. Photo by Silke von Berswordt-Wallrabe, courtesy Silke von Berswordt-Wallrabe

Kim Daejung, president of South Korea since 1997 and an iconic figure in the country’s transition to democracy, wins the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to achieve peace and reconciliation with North Korea.

Lee publishes a new anthology of writings, The Art of Yohaku, in Tokyo.

Lee is awarded the UNESCO Prize at the Shanghai Biennale.

Cover of the catalogue for the exhibition LeeUfan: 1973–2001,Kunstmuseum Bonn, June 17–September 9, 2001

Cover of the catalogue for the exhibition Lee Ufan: 1973–2001, Kunstmuseum Bonn, June 17–September 9, 2001

Lee is awarded the Ho-Am Prize by the Samsung Foundation in Korea.

The Japan Art Association awards Lee the Praemium Imperiale for Painting.

Lee publishes an anthology of his poems, Stand Still a Moment, in Tokyo.

The Kunstmuseum Bonn organizes the first major retrospective to focus on Lee’s paintings.

The Samsung Museum of Modern Art, Seoul, organizes Lee’s solo exhibitionThe Search for Encounter.

Lee Ufan, The Art of Encounter (2004)

Lee Ufan, The Art of Encounter (2004). Published on the occasion of Lee’s exhibition at Lisson Gallery, London, January 21–February 28, 2004

Lisson Gallery publishes The Art of Encounter, an English language anthology of Lee’s critical writings, with a revised and expanded version appearing in 2008. The book plays a key role in introducing criticism and other art writing from a contemporary Asian artist’s perspective to the Euro-American public.

Lee’s solo exhibition, The Art of Margins, at the Yokohama Museum of Art, opens to wide praise.

Lee’s Correspondance paintings evolve into a new, separate series of works entitled Dialogue, which expand on his interest in activating “the living composition of empty spaces.”

Lee Ufan, Relatum—dialogue, 2002

Lee Ufan, Relatum—dialogue, 2002. Steel and stones. Two plates, 3 x 120 x 100 cm each; two stones, approximately 50 cm high each. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Gift of Lisson Gallery, London, in honor of Lee Ufan, 2011. Installation view: Lee Ufan: Resonance, Palazzo Palumbo Fossati, Venice Biennale, June 10–November 21, 2007. Photo: Antonio Maniscalco, courtesy Fondazione Mudima, Milan © 2007 Antonio Maniscalco

Resonance, Lee’s solo exhibition of paintings and sculptures at the 52nd Venice Biennale, receives great critical acclaim. The exhibition arranges his sculptures and paintings, including dramatically lit works executed directly on the wall, in a fourteenth-century Italian palazzo and courtyard.

Lee Ufan, Relatum—point, line,plane,2010

Lee Ufan, Relatum—point, line, plane, 2010. Concrete pole, steel plate, and stone; pole, 1859 cm high, 50 x 50 cm at top, 40 x 40 cm at base; plate, 3 x 400 x 350 cm; stone, 166 cm high. Naoshima Fukutake Art Museum Foundation, Japan.Permanent installation, Lee Ufan Museum, Benesse Art Site, Naoshima, Japan. Photo by Tadasu Yamamoto

The Naoshima Fukutake Art Museum Foundation, Japan, opens the Lee Ufan Museum, designed by architect Ando Tadao in collaboration with Lee.

Lee presents works at two exhibitions in the 54th Venice Biennale.

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