Airport, please! heading to Tadao Ando’s Lee Ufan museum at the Benesse Art Site, Naoshima

by leslierankowfinearts

Lee Ufan Museum


A museum resulting from the collaboration between internationally acclaimed artist Lee Ufan, presently based mainly in Europe, and architect Tadao Ando. The Ando-designed semi-underground structure houses paintings and sculptures by Lee spanning a period from the 1970s to the present day. Lee’s works resonate with Ando’s architecture, giving visitors an impression of both stillness and dynamism. Located in a gentle valley surrounded by hills and the ocean, the museum offers a tranquil space where nature, architecture and art come in resonance with each other, inviting to peaceful and quiet contemplation, in a society overflowing with material goods.

Lee Ufan

Artist Lee Ufan

Located in a gentle valley surrounded by hills and the ocean, the architecture designed by Tadao Ando to conform to the landform and the pole created by Lee in front of the entrance create a tension between the horizontal and the vertical. The floor plan with rectangular and triangular spaces are ranged across this valley which leads to the sea brings a rhythm to the architecture.

The museum offers the official catalog of the Lee Ufan Museum. It contains dialogues between Lee Ufan and Tadao Ando, the works collected by the museum, and more.


Lee Ufan was one of the leading figures of the Mono-ha school (School of Things), a contemporary art movement emerging in the late 1960s. Ufan’s works in the museum include two- dimensional paintings featuring repetitive brushstrokes laid down with the rhythm of quiet breathing and sculptures that organically combine stones and steel plates, in which the artist’s interventions are reduced to the bare minimum.

lee Ufan

Lee Ufan was born in Gyeongsangnam-do, Korea, in 1936, while the country was under Japanese occupation. Following training in traditional inkbrush techniques at Seoul National University High School, in 1956 he moved to Tokyo, where he studied philosophy at Nihon University. In 1967 he had his first solo show at Sato Gallery, Tokyo, and in 1968 his work was included in Contemporary Korean Painting at Tokyo Museum of Modern Art. In 1969 Lee staged an ephemeral happening and made contingent structures for the 9th Contemporary Art Exhibition of Japan at Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Art, which signaled a departure from his earlier optical, discrete paintings. This show brought together Japanese artists identified with Mono-ha (School of Things).

Lee Ufan Museum
Benisee Art Site

Throughout the 1970s, the artist participated in several exhibitions that juxtaposed North American, East Asian, and European artists to highlight their shared concern with material, process, and site. A dedicated teacher and prolific cultural critic, Lee published seventeen books. In recent years, acclaim for his work has brought him exhibitions worldwide. In 2010 the Lee Ufan Museum, designed by Tadao Ando, opened in Naoshima, Japan. Increasingly distilled and monumental, the artist’s sculptures continue to juxtapose natural and industrial materials, in keeping with his relational philosophy. Lee lives and works in Kamakura, Japan, and Paris.

PACE Gallery, East Hampton

A recent exhibit at the newly established post-pandemic gallery Pace opened in East Hampton gave us all the opportunity to see the artist’s new paintings and his distinct approach to color and space.

There is a spontaneity to his process allowing the brush to move across his canvas and positioning the lozenge like areas of color within the space and an unconscious spontaneous intuitive sense of timeless placement.

Lee Ufan is recognized for his unconventional artistic processes which underscore the relationship between the viewer, the artwork, and the spaces they inhabit and for philosophical writings that challenge prevailing notions of artmaking with attention on spatial and temporal conditions.

Lee’s first one-artist exhibition occurred at Sato Gallery, Tokyo, in 1967, and coincided with the publication of The Aesthetics of Self-Contradiction, his critical examination of aesthetics, cultural production, and national identity. His drawings and paintings in the mid-1960s expressed this critique in visual form and were precursors to his From Point and From Line series, which concluded in 1984. Exhibiting a distilled visual language based on an amalgamation of Eastern and Western aesthetics and philosophy, these works emphasize system, structure, and process through fields of dots or lines to create tension between his gestures and the picture plane, while marking the passage of time.

Dialogue 2020
acrylic on canvas


http://lee fan 8 page pdf

These covid times of fear and unpredictability, the unknown and unexpected, find comfort in the calm serenity and all-knowing quality  of Lee Ufan’s paintings and sculpture. Naoshima, here we come!