Michael Werner Gallery is to present James Lee Byars for Art Basel’s Online Viewing Room, opening today Wednesday, 24th March. One of the most influential and celebrated artists of the 20th Century, Byars was a trailblazer. He pushed the boundaries of aesthetics and philosophy in art through his lifelong pursuit of giving tangible form to the ethereal concepts of beauty and perfection. While many artists use form to bring forth an idea, Byars does the opposite by starting from an idea or concept and giving it form.
Michael Werner Gallery’s online exhibition of James Lee Byars for Art Basel coincides with two major exhibitions across the globe. The first is The Milky Way, Byars’s most ambitious two-dimensional work, composed of 100 black silk paper stars enveloping the Michael Werner Gallery in New York. On view through 24 April, this exhibition marks the first time “The Milky Way” has ever been exhibited. The second is an important retrospective titled James Lee Byars: The Perfect Moment at the Red Brick Art Museum in Beijing. On view through 9 May, this exhibition is the artist’s first retrospective in Asia, which is significant as the artist was deeply influenced by Eastern philosophies. With over 50 works of sculpture, video, works on paper, ephemera and performances on view, the exhibition presents an overview of the artist’s four-decade career
James Lee Byars was a visionary and pioneer, looking towards the future while mining the past. Byars was deeply interested in technology and its ability to change mankind’s view of the world through the widespread transmission of ideas. In the 1960s, he worked with scientific institutes, creating international projects that sought to connect people and ideas around the world. In his legendary performance “The World Question Center”, broadcast live on Belgian television in 1969, Byars telephoned many of the world’s most renowned scientists, philosophers, activists and artists to determine what questions they believed were of essential importance at that moment. His endless desire to give value to an “idea” resulted in the sale of his performance “The Perfect Smile”, which was acquired by the Ludwig Museum in Cologne in 1994. This was the first time in history that a performance was purchased by a major museum. In the following years, “The Perfect Kiss” was purchased by the Museo Jumex in Mexico City.
Byars was born in Detroit in 1932 and died in Cairo in 1997. He has been the subject of numerous gallery and museum exhibitions worldwide, including The Palace of Good Luck, Castello di Rivoli / Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, Turin (1989); The Perfect Moment, IVAM Centre del Carme, Valencia (1994); Life Love and Death, Schirn Kunsthalle and Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain de Strasbourg (2004); The Perfect Silence, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2005); 1/2 an Autobiography, Museo Jumex, Mexico City and MoMA PS1, New York (2013-2014); The Golden Tower, Campo San Vio, Venice (2017); and The Perfect Kiss, Museum of Contemporary Art, Antwerp (2018).
OVR: Pioneers Preview (by invitation only) Wednesday, March 24, 2021, 2pm (CET) – Thursday, March 25, 2021 2pm (CET) Public days Thursday, March 25, 2021 2pm (CET) – Saturday, March 27, 2021 midnight (CET)
artbasel.com/ovr or via the Art Basel App Google Play: play.google.com/store/artbasel