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Milton Keynes Gallery Opens Comprehensive Exhibition of Work by the Late Artist James Lee Byars
James Lee Byars, Byars is Elephant, 1997. Courtesy Marie-Puck Broodthaers © Estate of James Lee Byars.

LONDON.- Milton Keynes Gallery presents a comprehensive exhibition of work by the late artist James Lee Byars (1932 – 1997). Milton Keynes Gallery will also be presenting a complementary exhibition of work by the artist in Venice this summer at the Palazzo Pesaro Papafava, during the 2009 Venice Biennale.

Byars was one of the twentieth century's most enigmatic artists. This exhibition presents a succinct overview of Byars’ practice, including sculptures, works on paper and film documentation of his performances. Bringing together many different strands from all the periods in his creative life, it provides an opportunity to engage with the remarkable richness and breadth of his work. The majority of works will be presented in the UK for the first time.

Byars questioned the boundaries between art and life as demonstrated through his prolific letter writing to his friends and compelling performances. Byars’ letters, sometimes adorned with gold dust, brought together everyday anecdotes with his idiosyncratic philosophical musings. In his performances and everyday actions, Byars dressed in incredible outfits made of fabric such as gold lamé and red silk. His performances focused on the fleeting and immaterial, for example, in 1972 Byars let a drop of perfume evaporate in the air in front of a department store in Bern (The Perfume Show). His constant articulation of man’s mortality is both poetic and profound.

The works selected for this exhibition come from the Kunstmuseum Bern’s recent survey exhibition of Byars’ work: "Im full of Byars" James Lee Byars - A Homage. Works include important loans from the Kunstmuseum Bern, the Toni Gerber Archive and the Hermann and Margrit Rupf Foundation, the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York and IVAM, Instituto Valenciano de Arte Moderno, Valencia and Marie-Puck Broodthaers. The UK presentation will also be supplemented by additional loans from public and private collections.

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