Performance Day

Reactivations of the Performance Work of James Lee Byars and Miguel Benlloch

Saturday, 29 June 2024 - 6pm and 8pm

Free, until full capacity is reached

Retiro Park, Palacio de Velázquez
150 people
Organised by
Museo Reina Sofía
The Estate of James Lee Byars; Michael Werner Gallery, New York, London and Berlin; Pirelli HangarBicocca (Giovanna Amadasi and Marcella Vanzo), and the Miguel Benlloch Archive

The performances of James Lee Byars (Detroit, Michigan, 1932 – Cairo, 1997) bring together the aesthetic and life concerns of this unique artist. In conjunction with the exhibition the Museo Reina Sofía devotes to the artist, under the title James Lee Byars. Perfect Is the Question, and inside the framework of the programme Living Matter. Other Approaches to Material, this day re-stages, over two sessions, a selection of James Lee Byars’s performances, which open a dialogue with his visual work inside the space of the show. In the form of a coda, the activity also includes the presentation of a new performance conceived specifically for the occasion, Acaeció en Granada, which explores Byars’s relationship with the artist Miguel Benlloch (Loja, Granada, 1954 – Seville, 2018) in the city of Granada.

For the first time in Spain, part of Byars’s performance work is brought to the stage: in the Palacio de Velázquez, ten performers of different ages, genders and in differing conditions will stage five pieces by employing replicas of the wardrobe the artist designed. For its part, Acaeció en Granada is based on a same-titled text by Benlloch, written in 2013, concerning his relationship with Byars through the construction, activation and destruction of La esfera de oro (The Golden Sphere, 1992), a work by the American artist developed inside the project Plus Ultra, which was produced by BNV Producciones and curated by Mar Villaespesa as part of the activities in the Andalusian Pavilion at the Universal Exhibition of Seville, more commonly known as Expo ’92. The action presented in this session features the participation of writer Aurora H. Camero, cultural manager Julio Jara Laura García-Lorca de los Ríos, the grandniece of Federico García Lorca, and the artist Julio Jara.

James Lee Byars peerlessly represented the nexus between art and mysticism in the twentieth century, the minimalist language of his work in the 1960s and 1970s transforming to give form to liturgical objects that explore ideas of the ephemeral, the perfect and the transcendental. In his work, conceived as a spiritual experience, traditions and knowledge from East and West, esoteric knowledge and procedural practices, and material refinement and mystical ascetism converge. Thus, his performances are a synthesis of rituality and happening, whereby the performers, as if priests, act in a great liturgy which aspires to affect time and space, with the performative pieces, therefore, occupying a foundational and genuine place in the origins of action art.


Saturday, 29 June 2024 – 6pm / Second session: 8pm

James Lee Byars, Be Quiet, 1980–2024
James Lee Byars, Ten in a Hat, 1968–2024
James Lee Byars, Four in a Dress, 1967–2024
James Lee Byars, Five Points Make a Man, 1994–2024
James Lee Byars, Breathe (Two in a Hat), 1968–2024
Enrique Fuenteblanca, from the texts of Miguel Benlloch, Acaeció en Granada, 2024


The Performances of James Lee Byars

Concept: James Lee Byars
Stage director: Rafael Romero de Ávila
Assistant: Javier Ortiz
Performers: Rosa Arroyo, Carmen Mayordomo, Benito Olía, Natalia Ortega, Javier Ortiz, Antonia Paso, Pablo Paz, Melanie Pindado, Marcos Rodríguez, Álvaro Vicente, Germán Vigara
With the collaboration of: The Estate of James Lee Byars; Michael Werner Gallery, New York, London and Berlin, and Pirelli HangarBicocca (Giovanna Amadasi and Marcella Vanzo)
Performance of Acaeció en Granada

Concept and stage director: Enrique Fuenteblanca, from the texts of Miguel Benlloch
Performers: Ana Rocío Dávila, Laura García-Lorca de los Ríos and Julio Jara
With the collaboration of: the Miguel Benlloch Archive