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JAMES LEE BYARS

James Lee Byars was born in Detroit in 1932. An early interest in sculpture and oriental art took him to Japan and the far East before returning to Europe and creating a strong body of work which might be regarded as “romantic minimalism”. By the 1970s he was regarded as one of the USA’s most important conceptual artists.

He was best known for a series of slight performance art actions (such as giving a brief smile to the world after emerging from a museum window) as well as very large and very small sculptural works. The use of paper (and particularly unusual papers) in editions and printed material was also a regular motif. Some of Byars’ works are just a few millimetres in size, others were the size of entire streets.

Byars also created unique letters for many of his friends and these constructions – often written in an unusual “starry” hand – are usually regarded as unique works by the artist on par with his sculptures. They are keenly collected.

Byars suddenly died in Cairo in 1997. His grave is a simple one – and its monument does not match the artist’s pure aesthetic – a final irony.

This collection of over 100 unique works, editions, documents and ephemera display a width of Byars’ artistic endeavours. It has been collected over 15 years by curator Paul Robertson and is currently in the hands of Unoriginal Sins. We will be displaying the entire collection here in this section of the website.New items will be added all the time – do check back.

WE INVITE YOU TO A HALO AROUND THE ICC ON SUNDAY AT 11 O’CLOCK IN THE MORNING. 1976.

Antwerp: ICC, 1976 30 x 21cm, 1pp. Single sheet of paper with the title text printed in a single line in the middle of the sheet. The announcement for a performance by Byars – “Action by James Lee byars in front of the I.C.C. on the Meir, Antwerps’ busiest shopping street. The proportional analogy between the width of the facade of the I.C.C. and the width of the street, inspired James Lee Byars for this action. Under the watchful eye of Byars, I.C.C. director Flor Bexstarts with the painting of a semicircle on the street in front of the building. The original plan was to give a performance at the exact centre of the halo, but Bex was caught red handed and arrested by a patrol of the Antwerp police. Byars, who had gone “missing” when the boys in blue arrived, eventually gave his performance, under the form of a reception in an unfinished halo.” Leaflet is folded twice in the middle else VG. JOINT WITH ORIGINAL POSTAL ENVELOPE – A stamped, addressed and mailed example to Thomas Longo of LA. Opened neatly.

UNTITLED (MAIL ART WORK). 1976.

Belgium: s.p. (Byars), 1976 A 14 X 10.5CM, hand clipped (b/w offset photograph of James Lee Byars in an unknown performance where the artist appears to be dressed in a costume with feathers along the arms to mimic a bird. JOINT WITH ORIGINAL POSTAL ENVELOPE – A stamped, addressed and mailed example to Thomas Longo of LA. Hand addressed by Byars and with the return address of the artist in Belgium.

JAMES LEE BYARS / EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL. 1976.

Antwerpen: ICC, 1976 30 x 21cm, 4pp plus 1pp insert riveted into the centre. Paper edition with a text in Dutch, English and German and a small 1cm square original photograph tipped on of the artist. Fine. Limitation unknown.

HAND-ADDRESSED ENVELOPE TO T. LONGO BY BYARS. 1976.

Standard white envelope hand addressed (with a couple of stars) by Byars to T. Longo of Los Angeles who Byars has nicknamed "Peachy Keen", The envelope has been mailed and is franked and dated 23.8.1976 and sent from Belgium. A few stains and marks from the postal service else VG.

JAMES LEE BYARS. 1977.

Eindhoven: Van Abbemuseum, 1977 8 x 13cm, Piece of white silk with “James Lee Byars” printed in black in the middle enclosed in white paper envelope printed “13 MAART 13.30 UUR / VAN ABBEMUSEUM EINDHOVEN” to flap. A rather lovely announcement object which may be regarded as a Byars’ edition. Fine.

JAMES LEE BYARS AND JOSEPH BEUYS. C. 1977.

Koln: Konig, n.d. (c. 1997) 10.5 x 15cm, 2pp postcard with the famous image of Beuys smiling at Byars who has his entire face covered with a coloured scarf. Fine.

JAMES LEE BYARS. MONCHEGLADBACH 1977.

Munchengladbach: Städtisches Museum, 1977 19 x 10.5cm, 1pp. Typographic announcement leaflet printed gold on black. Fine.

TH FR TO IN PH? 1977. ONE OF 330 NUMBERED COPIES.

Mönchengladbach: Städtisches Museum, 1977 19,5 x 15,2 x 7 cm printed two part gold card box content of a crumpled black tissue with the title text printed on it in gold. The initials in the title stands for “The first totality interrogated philosophy?”. One of 330 numbered examples. Slight wear to box else VG. Very scarce.

JAMES LEE BYARS AT VENICE BIENNALE. UNIQUE PHOTOGRAPH. 1977.

9 X 12.4cm, unique vintage b/w photograph of Byars with his head entirely hidden by a white scarf. Photographer unknown. On reverse in blue ink; "James lee Byars/Biennale Venice'. VG+.

JAMES LEE BYARS. 1977.

Paris: Musee d’art modern de la ville de Paris, 1977 15 x 10.5cm, 1pp. Typographic announcement leaflet foil stamped gold on black. Fine.

THE HUNDRED ONE PAGE BOOKS. 1977.

Basel: Rolf Preisig, 1977 10.5 x 21cm 2pp. Gold on black announcement card – typographic only. Fine although a mailed and stamped copy.

JAMES LEE BYARS. BERN 1978.

Switzerland: Kunsthalle Bern 1978 24.5 x 24.5cm, unpaginated – approx 80pp plus card covers. Exhibition catalogue and artist’s book designed by the artist – b/w images are alternated with text by the artist. Covers a bit grubby (as almost always found) and a little fading to rear covers but otherwise very good. The first of the "white books" by the artist which coincided with this major retrospective where many sculptural objects were displayed for the first time since the artist’s early career when he displayed stones alongside a walk in his parents’ home.