• 6 to 7 March 2019
  • Free booking essential.
  • Manchester Art Gallery
Wednesday 6th March: 5.30- 9.00

Thursday 7th March: 9.15- 5.00

The symposium on Thursday 7th March (9.15 am - 5.00 pm) 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 at 5.30 pm.

This symposium is organised by the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art (PMC) and University of the Arts London (UAL), in collaboration with Manchester Art Gallery and the University of Manchester. The symposium is convened by Hammad Nasar (PMC), Lucy Steeds (UAL), and Sarah Victoria Turner (PMC).

The LYC Museum & Art Gallery (LYC Museum), located in the village of Banks astride Hadrian’s Wall, showcased the work of more than 320 artists between 1972 and 1983. Its transformation from dilapidated farm buildings into a hyperactive space for art was the single-minded effort of artist Li Yuan-chia (1929–1994), whose initials gave the museum its name. 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

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. Apart from galleries, LYC Museum 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.

The artist Shelagh Wakely, who exhibited at the LYC Museum in 1979, saw the Museum as “a work of his [Li’s]”. It was an example of social practice before such a thing was named and tamed. And after its closure in 1983, it became the site of Li’s remarkable experimentation with hand-tinted photographs.

A stylised reconstruction of the LYC Museum lies at the heart of the Speech Acts exhibition – and embodies the possibility of a museum as both an artwork in itself, and as a vehicle for shaping collective stories and cultivating communities.

This symposium proposes a consideration of the LYC Museum as an extension of Li’s pioneering participatory art practice; for example, he was one of six participants in Popa at Moma: Pioneers of Part-Art, at Museum of Modern Art, Oxford in 1971.

Moreover, the symposium highlights 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).

Please see the final conference programme below.

Image courtesy of the LYC Foundation and The University of Manchester. Li Yuan-Chia standing at the porch of the LYC Museum. The window was designed and made by artist David Nash.

Three logos

Arts Council England logo, Asia Art Activism logo, Something Human logo,