Letter from James Lee Byars to Jan Hoet, 17.05.1980
13.02 – 19.02
In the years 1979 to 1981, Jan Hoet receives an amount of flamboyant letters by American artist James Lee Byars, in scribbled, often decorated handwriting in black, golden, silver or white ink on silk paper in luscious colours and shapes. These tiny artwork-like letters all served in Byars’ conquest for an exhibition in the Museum of Contemporary Art, back then still located in the Museum of Fine Arts in Ghent.
On May 21, 1980, the museum receives a hastily drafted letter from Byars, inviting Hoet to Venice for his performance on the opening of the Biennale: “Mr. Hoet You must come to Venice I open it with 1 Minute of Quiet Please Mr. Hoet wear yr pink silk suit to Venice We all are you’ll see why then”
He urges the museum director to continue the preparations for the exhibition that is to open in February 1981 and discusses his wild plans for a publication:“We must have a round catalogue with hard covers and 100 thick pages”
Byars envisions the museum walls to be covered in handmade Bruges lace and wants to present a number of newly produced sandstone sculptures. Hoet, often in a quarrel with the city administration, tries to convince the city council of the exhibition, setting up a coproduction with the Van Abbe Museum in Eindhoven to split the costs. In 1980, however, much more than what was granted as a budget to the museum was used up, largely due to the very expensive exhibition Kunst in Europa na ’68. Thus the exhibition with James Lee Byars never happened.
Thanks to: Jan Hoet Junior, Lucienne Leplae, Flor Bex, Lotte Beckwé, S.M.A.K. Gent (Véronique Van Bever en Jeroen Staes), Stadsarchief Gent, Naninga Lens, Wouter De Vleeschouwer, Elias Leytens and Simon Delobel.
The Letters Project
In 2022-2023, KIOSK together with the research group Ghent, playing field of the visual arts (1957-1987), will focus on letters from or to people from Ghent, or concerning the Ghent art scene. The letters are selected for their content, but also for their form.
For a whole year, the group will present a different letter every week in KIOSK, and will highlight its context or the questions it raises. During these presentations, the letter (or a facsimile) will be shown, possibly with other artefacts that are mentioned or that can clarify its meaning.
Ghent, playing field of the visual arts (1957-1987) consists of Naninga Lens, Sofie Frederix, Wouter De Vleeschouwer, Koen Brams and Godart Bakkers. For The Letters Project the group is reinforced by Simon Delobel and some guests.