James Lee Byars and De Appel

00:11:04 28 Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen
It is 14 April 1975. At 9 o’clock in the evening, the American artist James Lee Byars arrives in Amsterdam from Bern. ‘Fantasticly’ he writes in the telegram to Wies Smals announcing his arrival.
James Lee Byars

James Lee Byars (Detroit, 1932 – Cairo, 1997) was a nomadic artist. Born in America and profoundly influenced by ten years in Japan, he was received in Europe with open arms. At first he concentrated mainly on performance art; later he produced more tangible works as well.

Read more about the artist

It is 14 April 1975. At 9 o’clock in the evening, the American artist James Lee Byars (1932-1997) arrives in Amsterdam from Bern. ‘Fantasticly’ he writes in the telegram to Wies Smals announcing his arrival. Byars would stay for more than a month in Amsterdam and during this period would make his presence felt in a variety of ways. He does that principally through performances at various places in the city, but he also holds actions and discussions with the audience in and on the doorstep of de Appel art centre on Brouwersgracht. Wies Smals (1939-1983), who founded De Appel and invited Byars to come and do ‘something’ there, is no longer with us to tell us any stories about that time. But Lily van Ginneken, who had just at that time started writing articles about art for De Volkskrant, was there. She even received a book with ‘golden sentences’ dedicated to her from Byars himself. 

This video has been made in response to the exhibition ‘James Lee Byars’ in Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. Parts I and II can be seen until 29 May; part III can be seen from 18 June to 25 September 2016.

Video credits

  • camera & editing: Jacco Gaillard
  • interview: Els Hoek
  • thanks to: Nell Donkers & Jacquine van Elsberg
  • subtitling: Einion Media
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