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James Lee Byars (born April 10, 1932 in Detroit, Michigan – died May 23, 1997 in Cairo, Egypt) was an artist specializing in installation sculpture and in performance art. Byars' notable performance works include "The Death of James Lee Byars" and "The Perfect Smile".
Byars was born in Detroit in 1932, studied art and philosophy at Wayne State University and lived in Japan from 1958 to 1968, teaching English and executing his first performance works under the influence of Noh theater and Shinto rituals.
Recent exhibitions include I'm Full of Byars: James Lee Byars - Eine Hommage, Kunstmuseum Bern; Milton Keynes Gallery, London (2008); The Monument to Cleopatra, Michael Werner Gallery, New York (2012); Klein / Byars / Kapoor, Musee d'Art Moderne et d'Art Contemporain, Nice; ARoS Kunstmuseum, Aarhus (2012); Early Works & The Angel, Michael Werner Gallery, London (2013); "James Lee Byars: 1/2 an Autobiography", Museo Jumex, Mexico City (2013 - 2014) and MoMA PS1, New York (2014). In 2013. James Lee Byars was included in the 55th Venice Biennale, The Encyclopedic Palace.
The estate of the artist is respresented by Michael Werner Gallery, New York, London and Cologne.
The exhibition principally comprises numerous letters or missives that the artist Byars sent to the MoMA curator Dorothy C. Miller beginning in 1959…
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