Lot 57
  • 57

Lee Ufan

800,000 - 1,200,000 USD
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  • Lee Ufan
  • From Point, No. 780163
  • signed and dated 78; signed and titled on the reverse
  • oil and mineral pigment on canvas
  • 63 3/4 x 51 1/2 in. 161.9 x 130.8 cm.


Private Collection, Asia (acquired directly from the artist)
Acquired by the present owner from the above


This work is in excellent condition. There is minor tension cracking to the uppermost layer of paint at the overturned canvas edge along the left and right sides, which has resulted in a very small number of specks of minimal loss to the top layer of pigment. Along the extreme left edge at center there is a 1 ½" light and unobtrusive vertical scuff. Located 35 ¼" up from the bottom along the extreme right edge there is a small spot of retouching, ¼" in diameter, that fluoresces under ultraviolet light examination. The canvas is framed in a blonde wood frame.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

Lee Ufan, the unsurpassed master of the aesthetic sublime is today synonymous with the elegant, assertive and transcendent monochrome (dansaekhwa) paintings of which From Point is an expertly resolved example. Precise daubs of ground natural mineral establish punctiform points of midnight blue which reverberate over the bare canvas like scattered traces of the artist’s sub-conscious. Each initial point is elegantly poised at the beginning of a specific moment, a lived experience in Ufan’s history that emanates from the creamy ground before cascading into pervading emptiness.

These illustrious points, or evanescent moments embodied within cadenced ellipses, are repeated with potentially infinite recurrence across the blankness that consumes them. Indeed it is exactly this infinite emptiness, what the artist characterizes as yohaku, that underpins Ufan’s potent minimal aesthetic. Yohaku goes beyond a mere negation of form or substance; it is more akin to the endless expanse of the sky, the immaterial lingering resonance of a drum, or the vast emptiness of space that contains the entirety of the universe. Yohaku transcends the picture plane, it reverberates with the walls and the space in which it is found, the effect expands outwards and establishes a triangular relationship, a particular resonance between viewer, artwork and space, and likewise between the natural, the physical and the infinite. It is here that the ‘art’ is found: not beyond the painting’s physical surface, but in the invisible essence of its encounter, the meditative reflection of its forms such that, conformant with Ufan’s philosophy, From Point “lead[s] people’s eyes to emptiness and turn[s] their eyes to silence.” (the artist cited in Press Release, London, Lisson Gallery, Lee Ufan, 2015)

The process of creating these works is integral to Ufan’s aesthetic philosophy: everything except the necessary is omitted. Beginning by mixing ground natural minerals with nikawa, an adhesive medium conventionally used in traditional Japanese painting, Ufan aligns his cultural history with the infinite materiality of nature. The artist then places the canvas on the floor so that he can feel the physical weight of his body standing over it before slowly applying a brush impregnated with the mesmerizing blue mineral mixture to the surface of the canvas. Ufan repeats this gesture with a single paint load until the marks eventually dissipate into emptiness, timing each succession with the rhythm of his breathing so that the pulse of life vibrates through the arrangement of painted points. Comprising his raw materials and pervading his artistic methods, nature in its unlimited potential variance is therefore central to Ufan’s praxis, being described by the artist as “the realm of infinity where one can continuously bring one’s self back to nothingness.” (Lee Ufan, Selected Writings by Lee Ufan 1970-96, London 1996, p. 23)

The effect of these converging aesthetic principles is profound. It is no surprise then that Dansaekhwa paintings like the present work have been celebrated on a global stage, finding their way into the most revered and illustrious collections worldwide. Further to the inclusion of his monochrome canvases in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; and Tate, London, Ufan’s life’s work has been surveyed in a major retrospective Marking Infinity, at the Guggenheim New York in 2011, and was immortalized further when the Lee Ufan Museum on Naoshima Island, Japan, was constructed in 2010.