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Li Yuan-chia After the LYC Museum & Art Gallery

In this blog post, we explore the closure of the LYC Museum & Art Gallery and the life that followed for Li Yuan-chia.

Li Yuan-chia is the central figure of our exhibition Making New Worlds: Li Yuan-chia & Friends and the founder of the LYC Museum & Art Gallery in Banks, Cumbria. Throughout its 11 years, over 300 artists exhibited, performed and contributed to the Museum.

The final exhibition at the LYC Museum & Art Gallery was in March 1983, less than a year after its tenth anniversary. Throughout 1982, Li attempted to find a buyer for the property who would allow Li to run the Museum on a 9–5 basis. Unfortunately, this wasn’t realised and the Museum closed in April 1983 due to insufficient funding.

But not before hardship. A prospective buyer for the property moved in before the purchase was complete, and wouldn’t leave until seven years later, after a fraught legal battle. In the years following the closure, Li spent time with close friends, working on creative projects and exhibiting his own work. This included the exhibition The Other Story at Hayward Gallery in November 1989–February 1990.

Li Yuan-chia standing at the porch of the LYC Museum & Art Gallery, featuring window designed by David Nash. Image courtesy of Li Yuan-chia Archive, The University of Manchester Library.

As part of the LYC Museum, Li made a series of seven diaries that acted as an annual report with reflections on exhibitions, images of artworks displayed and texts about the Museum’s activities. In 1983, the diary included a summary of activities from the last year and explained why the Museum had to close. The diary also gave space to carefully document and credit all 323 ‘artists/craftsmen’ who exhibited at the LYC over its lifetime, a gesture that was characteristic of Li’s commitment to uplifting the artists in his life.