Life, Love, And Death: The Work Of James Lee Byars

Life, Love, And Death: The Work Of James Lee Byars

Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt

May 11, 2004

James Lee Byars
Life, Love, And Death: The Work Of James Lee Byars

13 May – 18 July 2004

Romerberg, 60311, Frankfurt, Germany
phone: (+49-69) 29 98 82-0
fax: (+49-69) 29 98 82-240

Image: “Four in a Dress”, 1970,
Photo: Lothar Schnepf,
Estate of James Lee Byars,
Courtesy: Galerie Michael Werner, Koln/New York


The Schirn dedicates a comprehensive retrospective to the great “magician of silence” James Lee Byars (1932-1997). The American artist has been present internationally with his performances, objects, sculptures, and spaces since the early 1970s. The exhibition explores the development of his influential work during his nomadic life in Japan, Europe, and the United States: from his performances, his paper and textile works centering on existential issues to his late gold and marble sculptures based on an understanding of love and death as an expression of perfection. Apart from presenting a number of monumental works such as the 17.5-meter high Golden Tower or the floor installation The Red Angel of Marseille measuring 300 square meters and consisting of 1,000 red glass balls, the exhibition also raises the question how to deal with the performative work of a deceased artist who proved himself a master when it came to presenting himself and made an incomparable contribution to balancing the relationship between the artwork and the viewer, between art and life.

Max Hollein, Director of the Schirn Kunsthalle: “With its exhibition, the Schirn underscores the outstanding role of James Lee Byars’s oeuvre. The presented collection of works evidences that Byars not only had a decisive impact on the development of Performance art but, mainly through his installations and his continuous dedication to existential subjects, is one of the most original and complex artistic personalities of the 20th century whose significance becomes increasingly obvious today.”

Klaus Ottmann, curator of the exhibition: “‘Life, Love, and Death’ is the first critical retrospective since the artist’s death in 1997. Its unique challenge is to present the career of an artist whose work was closely linked to both his physical and conceptual present. Unlike previous exhibitions that were done in close collaboration with the artist, this retrospective, aimed at initiating a reassessment of Byars’s work, focuses less on the presentation of the artist’s vision, and more on the works themselves and their art-historical and philosophical contexts. Some of the pieces will be presented to the general public for the first time, several have never been shown in Germany before.”
CATALOG: “Life, Love, and Death: The Work of James Lee Byars”. Edited by Max Hollein and Klaus Ottmann, Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt. With a preface by Max Hollein and texts by Viola Michely, Klaus Ottmann, and Martina Weinhart. German/English, 160 pages, ISBN 3-7757-1368-9, Hatje Cantz Verlag, Ostfildern-Ruit.
DIRECTOR: Max Hollein CURATOR: Klaus Ottmann
OPENING HOURS: Tue, Fri-Sun 10 a.m.-7 p.m., Wed and Thur 10 a.m.-10 p.m.

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Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt
May 11, 2004

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