James Lee Byars

James Lee Byars was born in 1932 in Detroit, Michigan. He moved to Japan in 1958 and became fascinated by Nô theatre and Shinto rituals. In his works, the emotional, abstract and symbolic elements of eastern culture are combined with his knowledge of western art and philosophy. With his installations, works on paper and memorable performances, Byars addressed the boundary between art and life, and embodied the synthesis of different movmements: from orientalism to conceptual art, and from minimalism to the Fluxus experiments. He died in Cairo in 1997.

The Michael Werner Gallery, London (2015), VW (VeneKlasen/Werner), Berlin (2015) and MoMA PS1, New York (2014) have all recently held important exhibitions dedicated to James Lee Byars. The installation Byars is Elephant (1997), his last work, was exhibited at Punta della Dogana in the exhibition “Prima Materia” (2013-15).

Byars is Elephant – Prima Materia