Billy Lee was born in 1946, of Chinese and Dutch parentage in Uitenhage, South Africa. As a child, his parents immigrated to England, where in 1969, he received his BFA, first–class honours, from Birmingham Institute of Art and Design, and his MFA at the Royal College of Art, London in 1972. Upon graduating from the RCA, Lee was made Kennedy Scholar at the Centre for Advanced Visual Studies, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston, USA, and was later named a Fellow. He remains the only artist ever to receive the prestigious Kennedy Scholar award.
Lee’s work is minimalist in style yet posses an anthropomorphic quality that manages to be powerful and subtle. His interests lie in a sculptural vocabulary, which he terms as visual poetry.
His sculptures are represented in public collections across the globe, including the Yuzi Paradise Sculpture Park, Guilin, China; Hakone/Utsukushi– ga–hara Open Air Museum, Japan; Dunaujvaros Sculpture Park, Hungary; the Shanghai Sculpture Park; the Memorial Rose Garden, Taipei, Taiwan and many others in the United States.
Lee has received numerous awards, including the GiacomoManzù Special Prize at the 7th Henry Moore International Sculpture Exhibition, Japan and, in 1993, he was awarded the Rodin Prize in the Fujisankei Biennale for his work exhibited in the Hakone/Utsukushi–ga–hara Open Air Museum, Japan. He was elected Associate of the Royal Society of British Sculptors, London, in 2000 and is a Member of the International Sculpture Center, Washington DC.
In 2010, Lee was invited to participate in the Cairo and Beijing Biennales and also invited to take part in the first international symposium in Abu Dhabi, where he made a 20 foot high stainless steel sculpture for the city. Lee has been a speaker on many forums and has written numerous papers, which have been published in the National China Sculpture Magazine. The December 2011 issue is devoted totally to his teaching, lectures and student works.
Billy Lee currently lives and works in the USA and is a professor at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.