31 December 1935
Auckland, New Zealand
|Education||Royal College of Art, London, Diploma in Graphic Design|
|Known for||Painting, performance, sculpture|
|Movement||Pop art, conceptual art|
Billy Apple ONZM (born Barrie Bates in Auckland, New Zealand in 1935), is an artist whose work is associated with the New York and British schools of Pop Art in the 1960s and with the Conceptual Art movement in the 1970s. He collaborated with the likes of Andy Warhol and other pop artists. His work is part of the permanent collection of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa (New Zealand), Auckland Art Gallery / Toi o Tamaki (New Zealand), the Christchurch Art Gallery / Te Puna o Waiwhetu (New Zealand), The University of Auckland (New Zealand) and the SMAK/Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst (Ghent, Belgium).
Barrie Bates was born in Auckland, New Zealand in 1935. He left secondary school with no qualifications and took a job as an assistant to a paint manufacturer in 1951. Bates attended evening classes at Elam School of Fine Arts, where he met Robert Ellis, a graduate of the Royal College of Art in London.
In 1959, he left New Zealand on a National Art Gallery scholarship. He studied at the Royal College of Art, London, from 1959 until 1962. During his time at the Royal College of Art, Bates met several other artists who went on to become a new generation of pop artists; including David Hockney, Derek Boshier Frank Bowling and Pauline Boty. He exhibited frequently during his time at the College in the Young Contemporaries and Young Commonwealth Artists exhibitions along with Frank Bowling, Jonathan Kingdon, Bill Culbert, Jan Bensemann and Jerry Pethick.
In 1962, Bates conceived Billy Apple: he bleached his hair and eyebrows with Lady Clairol Instant Creme Whip and changed his name to Billy Apple. Apple had his first solo show in 1963 – Apple Sees Red: Live Stills – in London at Victor Musgrave's Gallery One.
Apple moved to New York in 1964: he progressed his artistic career and also found work in various advertising agencies.
A pivotal event was the 1964 exhibit "The American Supermarket", a show held in Paul Bianchini's Upper East Side gallery. The show was presented as a typical small supermarket environment, except that everything in it – the produce, canned goods, meat, posters on the wall, etc. – was created by six prominent pop artists of the time, including Billy Apple, Andy Warhol, Claes Oldenburg, Tom Wesselmann, Jasper Johns, Mary Inman, James Rosenquist and Robert Watts.
Apple was one of the artists who pioneered the use of neon in art works. This is seen in the 1965 exhibitions Apples to Xerox and Neon Rainbows, both at The Bianchini Gallery. Then in 1967, the exhibition Unidentified Fluorescent Objects (UFOs), which showed a collection of neon light sculptures, was held at the Howard Wise Gallery, a fore-runner to the organisation Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI). One of Apple's UFO's was included in a 2013 exhibition that reconsidered the influence of Howard Wise Gallery.
In 1969, the artist established Apple, one of the first alternative exhibition spaces in New York at 161 West Twenty-third Street in order, as he stated, "to provide an independent and experimental alternative space for the presentation of [his] own work and the work of others." Initially the exhibition space was part of his own studio. During its four years Apple produced 35 works in the venue and hosted work by other artists including Geoff Hendricks, Mac Adams, Davi Det Hompson, Larry Miller and Jerry Vis. The space was considered both an exhibition space and a forum for art and discourse.
In 1974, Apple's first major survey exhibition was held at the Serpentine Gallery in London: From Barrie Bates to Billy Apple. In 1975 Apple returned to New Zealand for the first time in sixteen years. During the visit he embarked on a national exhibition tour with support from the Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council. Apple was then invited back by the Arts Council for a tour over the summer of 1979–1980. The exhibition he toured was called The Given as an Art Political Statement. During each tour he exhibited in spaces throughout the country.
During the 1980s, Apple's practice focused on the economics of the art world. The exhibition Art for Sale at Peter Webb gallery in 1980 was made up of a series of art works that were actual receipts for the payment given to the artist. This work progressed on to a series called Transactions. Other important series of work that began in the 1980s include Golden Rectangle series, and From the Collection. In 1983 he produced a solid gold apple for former Auckland Coin & Bullion Exchange Director, Ray Smith, valued at $(NZ)85,000 – the most expensive work made by a living New Zealander at the time and a significant precursor to Damien Hirst's 2007 diamond skull titled For the Love of God. The gold apple was later exhibited at Artspace, Auckland in 2004 as part of an installation developed with regular collaborator and writer, Wystan Curnow.
He returned to New Zealand, permanently in 1990 and currently lives in Auckland. In 1991 the Wellington City Art Gallery staged a decade survey of his work: As Good as Gold: Billy Apple Art Transactions 1981–1991. Negotiations are underway between Saatchi & Saatchi and the New Zealand horticulture research centre to develop an apple that could be named "Billy Apple". In 2001 Apple created a company, "Billy Apple Ltd" in anticipation of securing licensing of the marketing rights over this new apple.
The artist has a long-standing interest and involvement in motor racing, which was acknowledged with the inclusion of two vehicles from his own collection in the 1991 As Good as Gold survey, as well as in the accompanying publication. This interest was brought to the fore with The Art Circuit, a sound performance work incorporating famous bikes and riders staged on the Auckland Art Gallery forecourt in 2007. This was followed by the 2008 solo exhibition, The Bruce and Denny Show, presented at Two Rooms in 2008 as a tribute to the McLaren brand, and particularly to the motoring triumphs of Bruce McLaren and Denny Hulme from 1967–1969. The exhibition included Hulme's $1.5 million McLaren M8A-2 racing car and text works that make reference to the tracks raced and the livery of the two drivers' cars.
In 2008, Apple was the subject of a feature-length documentary called "Being Billy Apple". Produced by Spacific Films and directed by award winning filmmaker, Leanne Pooley, the documentary tells the story of Billy Apple's life from his POP period through his involvement with the conceptual art movement in New York during the 1970s to his current "horticultural/art" Apple endeavours.
In 2009, the Adam Art Gallery, Wellington staged the survey exhibition Billy Apple: New York 1969–1973, covering the activities undertaken by the artist in the not-for-profit gallery he ran from 161 West 23rd Street. Later in 2009 Witte de With Centre for Contemporary Art in Amsterdam presented a major exhibition in two parts, curated by Nicolaus Schafhausen; the first Billy Apple: A History of the Brand, surveys the artist's entire practice from inception as his own brand to the present day; the second, Revealed/Concealed, focuses on his works that critique the site of art through architectural interventions.
- Tilman Osterwold, Pop Art, Taschen, 2003, p78. ISBN 3-8228-2070-9
- "A Times Square of the Mind". TIME. 18 March 1966.
- Oppenheimer, Robin (March/April 2007). "Video Installation: Characteristics of an Expanding Medium". After Image 34 (5): 14–18.
- "Press release: Howard Wise Gallery: Exploring the New". Retrieved 12 June 2013.
- Russeth, Andrew (9 April 2013). "'Howard Wise: Exploring the New’ at Moeller Fine Art". GalleristNY. Retrieved 12 June 2013.
- Clifford, Andrew (16 June 2004). "Tales of Gold: The Tale of Ray, at Artspace". NZ Herald. Retrieved 23 October 2012.
- "Tales of Gold, Billy Apple with Wystan Curnow". Artspace. Artspace. Retrieved 23 October 2012.
- Gregory Burke, "Exchange Value", in As Good As Gold: Billy Apple Art Transactions 1981–1991 (Wellington: Wellington City Art Gallery, 1991), 13–14.
- Andrew Clifford, "Billy Apple" in Art World Issue 4 August/September 2008, 106–109.
- Official Website (lists only his contact information)
- Adam Art Gallery See exhibition Billy Apple New York 1969–1973.
- Ferner Galleries at the Wayback Machine (archived 25 December 2007) Represents Billy Apple
- Hamish McKay Gallery at the Wayback Machine (archived 13 February 2008) (Wellington, NZ) Represents Billy Apple
- Sue Crockford Gallery (Auckland, NZ) Represents Billy Apple
- Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa (Te Papa) (Wellington, NZ) features Billy Apple in its permanent collection
- Spacific Films Documentary about Billy Apple
- Christchurch Art Gallery / Te Puna o Waiwhetu (Christchurch, NZ) features Billy Apple in its permanent collection
- Auckland Art Gallery / Toi o Tamaki (Auckland, NZ) features Billy Apple in its permanent collection
- SMAK / Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst (Gent, Belgium) features Billy Apple in its permanent collection
- KR Konnect Billy Apple collector Kevin Roberts' blog
- Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art (Rotterdam, the Netherlands) 2009 Major Solo Show
- Apples, 2 for 25c by Billy Apple, offset lithograph, aluminium and printed plastic on canvas, 1962–64
- Auckland Art Gallery Collection
- Interview with Billy Apple Circuit podcast April 2015