Lee U-fan to take time to examine counterfeits of his paintings

AJ Lee, June 27, 2016, 9:55 a.m.

Artist Lee U-fan, whose abstract paintings have become subjects of art forgery, took a look at the paintings that the National Forensic Service identified as counterfeits for the first time Monday, but said he has yet to conclude they are fakes. 

“I will come back (to the police) the day after tomorrow. There are things I have to check again,” said Lee as he left the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency after having examined the paintings. 

Lee’s attorney Choi Soon-yong explained that Lee would take time to compare the paints and techniques used in the counterfeits against his own and meet the police again Wednesday to deliver his opinion. 

“He has not been creating the same paintings, or using the same paints. The paints may, or may not be the ones he used before,” said Choi, who was with Lee during the viewing. “He is being very careful in confirming whether the paintings are fakes,” he said. 

Lee, who had been staying in France for a month, arrived in Seoul on Sunday to finally have a look at the 13 paintings that the NFS identified as counterfeits. He is expected to leave for Shanghai at the end of the month. 

“The artist is confused and offended as he became the center of the controversy against his will,” Choi added. 

Lee has insisted that he needs to see the paintings since the NFS and the SMPA confirmed them to be counterfeits.

“The police never called me during the investigation. They did whatever they wanted to do,” Lee was quoted as saying by Yonhap News upon his arrival at Incheon International Airport on Sunday. His remarks show his deep discontent with the police investigation into one of the largest art forgery cases involving the internationally acclaimed artist’s works in Korea.

Police launched an investigation last year when rumors circulated that counterfeits of Lee’s paintings were being sold in the Korean art market. In December 2015, the SMPA raided galleries in Seoul suspected of circulating alleged counterfeits of Lee’s major painting series “From Point” and “From Line.” The police booked two gallery owners without detention and seized the paintings for NFS appraisal.

A 66-year-old art forger surnamed Hyun, who was arrested in May and charged with creating fake works by Lee U-fan, has been put on trial. The National Forensic Service earlier this month confirmed as fakes all 13 works police seized from galleries alleged to have been distributing the counterfeit pieces.

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