acting as colossal beacon to ‘bridge heaven and earth, and unify humanity’, ‘the golden tower’ by late artist james lee byars has been erected in venice at the edge of the grand canal. forming part of the venice art biennale 2017 collateral events, the monument can be viewed from a variety of vantage points around the city, with a gilded surface mirroring the golden mosaic façade of the adjacent palazzo barbarigo. ‘james lee conceived of ‘the golden tower’ as a monument to humanity,’ explains wendy dunaway, the artist’s widow. ‘venice was both his home and a metaphor for east meeting west. I can’t imagine a more fitting tribute in these times.’




organized by fondazione giuliani with the support of michael werner gallery for la biennale di venezia, ‘the golden tower’ rises above the rooftops of the city as a ‘symbol of ascension’, curator alberto salvadori posits. ‘the splendor of gold hints at the symbol of the sun but also becomes a symbol of inner illumination, of intellectual knowledge and spiritual experience, a concept of divinity,’ salvadori continues. ‘that’s the deeper motivation in james lee byars’s use of gold…it is the ultimate symbol of greatness and the infinite.’

james lee byars venice
all images by richard ivey / courtesy michael werner gallery new york and london



the installation is also significant given byars’ connection to the city, living on and off in venice since 1982 and working closely with master glass-blowers from murano. the vision for ‘the golden tower” first began in 1976 and was developed with numerous conceptual studies throughout the artist’s career. towering more than 20 meters high, ‘the golden tower’ is byars’ largest work, and its venice installation is the first to fully realize his intentions of presenting the sculpture in a public space.

james lee byars venice



follow our dedicated instagram account for live coverage of the exhibitions, installations, and events in venice. 

james lee byars venice

james lee byars venice

james lee byars venice

james lee byars venice

james lee byars venice

james lee byars venice

  • Look everyone my winky was a key!

    GoldMember says:
  • “erected” is the most accurate architectural word indeed.

    buzzoff says:
  • The only good thing I can think to say about the piece is that it is temporary.

    Vladimir says:
  • Someone has some ‘issues’, haven’t they?

    Edifis Quoll says:

have something to add? share your thoughts in our comments section below.

comments policy
designboom's comment policy guidelines
generally speaking, if we publish something, it's because we're genuinely interested in the subject. we hope you'll share this interest and if you know even more about it, please share! our goal in the discussion threads is to have good conversation and we prefer constructive opinions. we and our readers have fun with entertaining ones. designboom welcomes alerts about typos, incorrect names, and the like.
the correction is at the discretion of the post editor and may not happen immediately.

what if you disagree with what we or another commenter has to say?
let's hear it! but please understand that offensive, inappropriate, or just plain annoying comments may be deleted or shortened.

- please do not make racist, sexist, anti-semitic, homophobic or otherwise offensive comments.
- please don't personally insult the writers or your fellow commenters.
- please avoid using offensive words, replacing a few letters with asterisks is not a valid workaround.
- please don't include your website or e-mail address in your comments for the purpose of self-promotion.
- please respect jury verdicts and do not discuss offensively on the competition results
(there is only one fist prize, and designboom usually asks renown professionals to help us to promote talent.
in addition to the awarded designs, we do feel that almost all deserve our attention, that is why we publish
the best 100-200 entries too.)

a link is allowed in comments as long as they add value in the form of information, images, humor, etc. (links to the front page of your personal blog or website are not okay). unwelcome links (to commercial products or services of others, offensive material etc. ) will be redacted. and, ... yes, spam gets banned. no, we do not post fake comments.


a diverse digital database that acts as a valuable guide in gaining insight and information about a product directly from the manufacturer, and serves as a rich reference point in developing a project or scheme.

art news