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Asia Society Texas Center
News Release
Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Celebrated Korean Artist Lee Ufan Commissioned To Create Work for Society's Texas Home
Sculpture to Inaugurate New Taniguchi-Designed Building in Houston

HOUSTON -- Asia Society Texas Center is pleased to announce that Korean artist Lee Ufan has been commissioned to produce a site-specific work to inaugurate the Sculpture Garden in its new home, designed by Yoshio Taniguchi and located in the heart of Houston's Museum District. Titled Relatum - Signal, the 2011 work represents Lee's first commissioned piece for a public institution in the United States.

"Lee Ufan's sculptural work engages and tantalizes the imagination," ASTC Executive Director Martha Blackwelder said. "He is an important artist, and by commissioning this piece we underscore our commitment to exhibiting contemporary art of the highest quality."

Lee, whose oeuvre was the subject of a five-decade retrospective that closed in September at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, will install the sculpture early in 2012. It will be unveiled as part of ASTC's four-day Grand Opening on April 12-15, 2012. 

A radically innovative artist long admired in Europe and Asia, Lee was not well-known in this country until recently. He is often described as a "philosopher-artist," reflecting his extensive body of theoretical writing and enduring concern for the interplay of self and the world. Born in southern Korea in 1936, Lee lived through the Japanese occupation and the Korean War. In 1956 he moved to Japan, where he earned a degree in philosophy from Nihon University, Tokyo. During the 1960s and '70s he emerged as the best-known practitioner of Mono-ha, an antiformalist, materials-based movement that grew out of the artistic experimentation and leftist activism of the era.

Since 1972 Lee has titled all his sculptural work Relatum, a philosophical term that denotes terms, objects or events among which a relation exists.

"Asia Society is considered a pioneer in presenting contemporary art from Asia," said Melissa Chiu, Asia Society Museum Director and Vice President for Global Visual Art Programs. "We began in the early 1990s with groundbreaking exhibitions of Chinese and Indian art, and have continued more recently with solo survey exhibitions by internationally acclaimed artists Yoshitomo Nara and Zhang Huan."  

Lee is represented in major museum collections including the Museum of Modern Art, Guggenheim Museum, Centre Georges Pompidou, Tate Gallery, National Museums of Modern Art in Tokyo and Kyoto, and National Museum of Art in Osaka. Currently he divides his time between Japan and France.

The new work will be located in the Sculpture Garden adjacent to ASTC's 4,000-square-foot Louisa Stude Sarofim Gallery, where Treasures of Asian Art: A Rockefeller Legacy will be on view through September 16, 2012. This extraordinary exhibition features some 60 masterpieces from the Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection at Asia Society New York. Lee's minimalist sculpture will serve as a striking counterpoint to the magnificent traditional works featured in Treasures of Asian Art

The Sarofim Gallery will also host Lee Ufan: The Art of Emptiness, an exhibition of watercolors Lee has produced especially for the Texas Center's opening, on view through September 16.

For more information contact Fritz Lanham, Director of Communications and Marketing, 713.496.9909,

Asia Society Texas Center is the leading educational organization promoting mutual understanding among the people of Asia and the United States. With offices in 11 cities in the U.S. and Asia, it organizes programs across the fields of art and culture, business and policy, and education. The Asia Society Texas Center, established in 1979, will open its new 39,000-square-foot state-of-the-art building in the heart of Houston's Museum District in April 2012. ASTC will host important temporary and traveling exhibitions of traditional and contemporary Asian art, organized in partnership with Asia Society Museum, New York.

Photo: Lee Ufan, 2008. Photo by G.R.Christmas/Courtesy The Pace Gallery.

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