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 a BFA from Birmingham Institute of Art and Design, and an MFA from the Royal College of Art, London (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. Billy Lee currently lives and works in the USA and is a professor at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
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.
Billy 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. Lee manipulates stone to create stoic sculptures that verge on the ritualistic and totemic. They are monumental in size, weight and content yet formally reductive, reminiscent of art deco architecture and bauhaus lines.