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Li Yuan-chia Archive

Date range: 1950s–1990s.

Li Yuan-chia (1929–94) was one of the most important Chinese artists of the twentieth century.

He was born into a peasant family in rural Guangxi Province and moved to Taiwan after the Communist victory. He studied art and with a number of fellow artists formed the Ton Fan Group in 1956; they produced the first abstract works in modern China and came to international attention.

In the 1960s Li moved to Italy and then Britain, exhibiting at the Lisson Gallery alongside dom sylvester houédard and David Medulla. While in London he taught himself photography and this medium became integral to his artistic practice.

In 1972 he converted a rundown farmhouse at Banks on Hadrian’s Wall into his own gallery, the lyc Museum, a place of tranquility where art could flourish. Over three hundred artists exhibited there, while Li himself constantly explored the cosmos and the commonplace in painting, sculpture, installation, photography and poetry.

This superbly rich archive constitutes the ‘life tissue’ of a remarkable poet-artist and person.

It comprises:

  • holograph literary manuscripts tracing every phase in the development of Li’s poetry, from pre-composition (notes, sketches, drawings, notebooks, marginalia, annotations) to production (three-dimensional works, kinetic poems, artists’ books, etc.)
  • audio-visual material relating to Li’s practice as an artist, including a large quantity of photographs, and Super 8 films
  • personal, artistic, literary and business correspondence with other writers, artists, musicians, film-makers, performers, arts institutions, etc.
  • Li’s engagement diaries and address books
  • visitor and comments books for the lyc Museum
  • legal and financial records
  • printed material such as annotated books, lyc catalogues, artists’ books, poems and newcuttings

See also

See also the papers and books of Li’s friend, dom sylvester houédard.

Finding aids

  • Uncatalogued
  • Guy Brett and Nick Sawyer, Li Yuan-chia Tell Me What Is Not Yet Said (London, 2001)
  • Stella Halkyard, ‘Patching up the Cosmos: The World of Li Yuan-chia’, PN Review, 185 (2009), pp. 8–11


The John Rylands Library

Using the reading rooms in the John Rylands Library

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