The artist James Lee Byars died twice. In 1994 he presented a prelude of his death in the performance ‘The Death of James Lee Byars’ in the Marie-Puck Broodthaers Gallery in Brussels. James Lee Byars orchestrated the perfect death in the presence of friends and collectors. Already ill at the time, the artist died a natural death in Cairo in 1997.
The works in this exhibition are the result of collaboration between James Lee Byars and Carlos Becerra.The collector Carlos Becerra helped James Lee Byars to realize his last project, 'The Death of James Lee Byars', and was asked by the artist to manage it after his death. From 18 June 2016, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen showed works of art from the collection of Carlos Becerra.
James Lee Byars was a nomadic artist. Born in America and profoundly influenced by ten years in Japan, he was received in Europe with open arms. At first he concentrated mainly on performance art; later he produced more tangible works as well. In two successive exhibitions. In the summer of 2016 the museum showed his project The Death of James Lee Byars.
The exhibition features artworks from the collection of the poet, artist and collector Carlos Becerra. He and James Lee Byars met in the early 1990s in Brussels and forged a strong friendship and relationship of trust. Becerra was closely involved in ‘The Death of James Lee Byars’. The tangible results are drawings, designs, models and more than four hundred photos that Becerra took of each stage of the preparation.
Flor Bex and Wies Smals (5 March – 29 May 2016)
The first exhibition featured the archives of Flor Bex of Antwerp’s International Cultural Centre of Wies Smals of De Appel art centre in Amsterdam. Among the first to support Byars, they were in contact with him from the early 1970s. Their collections focus on unusually designed letters on different kinds of paper in a variety of shapes, from circles to triangles, hearts and strings, always in the characteristic colours of red, pink, black and gold. Byars’s use of ingenious folding techniques means that a letter in a small envelope can sometimes be unfolded into a strip several metres long.