The LYC Museum & Art Gallery and the Museum as Practice

On 6–7 March 2019, University of the Arts London and the Paul Mellon Centre for the Studies in British Art are convening a symposium on the LYC Museum & Art Gallery (LYC Museum), an exhibition space located in the village of Banks astride Hadrian’s Wall that showcased the work of more than 320 artists between 1972 and 1983. Transforming dilapidated farm buildings into a hyperactive space for art, the LYC Museum was the single-minded effort of artist Li Yuan-chia (1929–94), whose initials gave the museum its name.

Li bought the farm buildings from his friend and neighbour, the artist Winifred Nicholson. Transforming them into the LYC Museum consumed Li. He built most of it himself – undertaking all building, plumbing, and electrical work. At its peak, it hosted four new exhibitions a month; each accompanied by a catalogue that he designed and printed. Some of the artists shown ranged from local artists (Andy Christian, Susie Honour) to totemic national figures (Paul Nash, Barbara Hepworth) and contemporary artists, now of international renown (Lygia Clark, Andy Goldsworthy), but then barely known in Britain. Apart from galleries, LYC Museum also had a children’s art room, library, performance space, printing press, communal kitchen, and garden. It was an open space for the multiple possibilities of art.

Please join us for this symposium which proposes a consideration of the LYC Museum as an extension of Li’s pioneering participatory art practice. We will debate the role of the LYC Museum as a site from which to explore the questions of how friendships inform shared practices, generate work, and circulate stories. The networks and practices that the LYC Museum enabled and enriched have yet to be studied widely. For example, his friendship with the concrete poet and Benedictine monk, dom sylvester houédard, or the pioneering sound artist, Delia Derbyshire – Li’s assistant, and briefly partner, at the LYC Museum (1976–77).

LYC is Me.
LYC is all of You.
– Li Yuan-chia

The symposium will take place on 6–7 March 2019 at the Manchester Art Gallery and University of Manchester. It will be preceded by a walk-through of the exhibition ‘Speech Acts: Reflection-Imagination-Repetition’, curated by Hammad Nasar, with Kate Jesson, and an evening of specially commissioned artistic interventions, on Wednesday 6 March 2019 at Manchester Art Gallery.

The LYC Museum & Art Gallery and the Museum as Practice is convened by Hammad Nasar (Senior Research Fellow, Paul Mellon Centre), Lucy Steeds (Reader in Art Theory and Exhibition Histories at Afterall, University of the Arts London) and Sarah Victoria Turner (Deputy Director for Research, Paul Mellon Centre). It is organised by the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art and University of the Arts London, in collaboration with Manchester Art Gallery and the University of Manchester.

A provisional programme and details of registration will be made available shortly.

Image: Li Yuan-chia standing at the porch of the LYC Museum next to a window designed and made by David Nash. Courtesy LYC Foundation and the University of Manchester.