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b. 1935, New Zealand

Billy Apple Biography

Billy Apple is a pioneer pop and conceptual artist who, though born in New Zealand in 1935 as Barrie Bates, reinvented himself in 1962 as 'Billy Apple' after studying graphic design at the Royal College of Art in London. The change in name (accompanied by dyed-blonde hair) exemplified Apple's interest in the mechanisms of commerce and branding. His constructed identity became a marketing device for which he later developed a fruit-shaped logo then internationally registered as a trademark in 2008.

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Apple's 'folksy' first name and vegetative surname were irrevocably merged with his artist's body (and new persona) to become an artwork. All activities undertaken by that body—such as cleaning windows or vacuuming the floor—and its by-products—like nasal mucus, semen, earwax or faeces—in the early 1970s became artworks too. No matter how difficult, they were works that could eventually be sold through dealers and galleries.

In the early 1980s, Apple began to look at the underpinning principles of fiscal exchange dominant in the art world by presenting neatly designed screenprints or paintings—executed by professional sign writers—of text that articulated the conventions of capital transactions such as selling, bartering, IOUs, commissioning or the paying of the artist's bills. The text paintings or prints stated the rudimentary details of each transaction. With this system, Apple shrewdly used the brand to perpetuate itself by drawing in funds from the sales of the works to sustain the thinking body that drove the brand. More recently and to the same end, he has sold conceptually connected products like Billy Apple Cider, or specially grown fruit, Billy Apples.

Such an interest in perpetuation applies beyond the brand to versions of Apple's physical body as well. In particular, four works shown in his 2018 solo exhibition Billy Apple Six Decades 1962–2018 at Rossi & Rossi in Hong Kong dealt with immortality. The two paintings (The Artist Will Live Forever [2016] and I Consent [2009/2015]), video (The Immortalisation of Billy Apple Stage Two, Billy Apple Cell Line [2010]), and photograph (The Immortalisation of Billy Apple, 2009–15 [2010]), reference Apple's 2009 gifting (as part of a collaboration with geneticist Dr Craig Hilton) of samples of his somatic cell tissue in 2009 to a Massachusetts research organisation and an Auckland laboratory. In both places, the cells are kept alive in special incubators and are studied for cancer research, genetic analysis and possibilities for cloning.

Apple has collaborated with scientists on several occasions. In 2016, he began a project with Dr Justin O'Sullivan, a molecular biologist connected to the Liggins Institute at the University of Auckland who is interested in the bacterial mini-ecosystems in various human body parts, including the gut. For a project that spans 46 years, Apple twice provided samples of used toilet paper (in 1970 and 2016) to be analysed to see the degree of difference. Of interest to O'Sullivan is how some microbes seem to be selected by each person's genetic make-up to stick around over the course of decades. The 1970 toilet paper was part of Apple's Excretory Wipings, 18 May–21 October 1970 project, originally exhibited in New York in 1971 and later shown briefly in a 1974 Serpentine Gallery survey before being shut down by the London authorities. A new work resulted from his collaboration with O'Sullivan, titled N=1 (2018), which incorporated an analysis of the microbial changes in a chart. The two-panel work was donated by Apple to the Liggins Institute.

Selected exhibitions from Apple's long career include: The American Supermarket, Bianchini Gallery, New York (1964); From Barrie Bates to Billy Apple: 1960–74, Serpentine Galleries, London (1974); Billy Apple: As Good As Gold: Art Transactions 1981–91, Wellington City Art Gallery (1991); Revealed / Concealed, Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam (2009); Billy Apple: British and American Works 1960–1969, The Mayor Gallery, London (2010); and Billy Apple: The Artist Has To Live Like Everybody Else, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki (2015).

John Hurrell | Ocula | 2018

Billy Apple Featured Artworks

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Portrait of the Artist in a Drip Dry Suit by Billy Apple contemporary artwork
Billy ApplePortrait of the Artist in a Drip Dry Suit, 1964Xerography on cotton fabric
10 x 15 inches
Hamish McKay Enquire about this work
Portrait of the Artist in a Drip Dry Suit by Billy Apple contemporary artwork
Billy ApplePortrait of the Artist in a Drip Dry Suit, 1964Xerography on cotton fabric
10 x 15 inches
Hamish McKay Enquire about this work
Portrait of the Artist in a Drip Dry Suit by Billy Apple contemporary artwork
Billy ApplePortrait of the Artist in a Drip Dry Suit, 1964Xerography on cotton fabric
10 x 15 inches
Hamish McKay Enquire about this work
Billy Apple® is N=1 by Billy Apple contemporary artwork
Billy AppleBilly Apple® is N=1(detail). Mixed media. Collection of the Liggins Institute, University of Auckland.
Starkwhite Enquire about this work
Billy Apple® by Billy Apple contemporary artwork
Billy AppleBilly Apple®, 2017Acrylic on linen
80 x 80 cm
Starkwhite Enquire about this work
FROM THE KUNST COLLECTION by Billy Apple contemporary artwork
Billy AppleFROM THE KUNST COLLECTION, 2018Gold and titanium white on linen
50 x 50 cm
Starkwhite Enquire about this work
FROM THE PRIVATE COLLECTION by Billy Apple contemporary artwork
Billy AppleFROM THE PRIVATE COLLECTION, 2018Silver and titanium white on linen
50 x 50 cm
Starkwhite Enquire about this work
Gallery Abstract by Billy Apple contemporary artwork
Billy AppleGallery Abstract, 2012Installation view
Two Rooms Enquire about this work

Billy Apple Recent Exhibitions

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Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, Black White at Hamish McKay, Wellington
Closed
14 December 2019–25 January 2020 Group Exhibition Black White Hamish McKayWellington
Contemporary art exhibition, Billy Apple® and Tāme Iti, Flagged at Starkwhite, Auckland
Closed
8–12 October 2019 Billy Apple® and Tāme Iti Flagged StarkwhiteAuckland
Contemporary art exhibition, Billy Apple, Billy Apple® is N=One at Starkwhite, Auckland
Closed
11 April–5 May 2019 Billy Apple Billy Apple® is N=One StarkwhiteAuckland

Billy Apple Represented By

Hamish McKay contemporary art gallery in Wellington, New Zealand Hamish McKay Wellington
Starkwhite contemporary art gallery in Auckland, New Zealand Starkwhite Auckland

Billy Apple In Ocula Magazine

Billy Apple: In Focus Ocula Report Billy Apple: In Focus By John Hurrell, Auckland

To present 21 works in Hong Kong, spanning approximately six decades (1962–2018), is an unusual occasion for Billy Apple, a groundbreaking New Zealand-born artist whose pop-infused conceptual practice is mostly acknowledged in New Zealand, England (where he studied and worked from 1959 to 1964) and the United States (where he lived from 1964 to...

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Billy Apple In Related Press

10 Hong Kong Art Exhibitions to see in June Related Press 10 Hong Kong Art Exhibitions to see in June 5 June 2018, Hong Kong Tatler

New Zealand artist Billy Apple seems to have always been in the right place at the right time. In the early 1960s, he moved from Auckland to London and worked alongside artists who would become leading figures in the Pop Art movement, including David Hockney and Pauline Boty. After that he moved on to New York, and in 1964 he collaborated with...

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Three Apple Transactions Related Press Three Apple Transactions 19 February 2017, EyeContact

In this Starkwhite installation of three historic 'Transaction' works - Apple's N.F.S. (1987), his P.O.A. (1987) and his working drawing for an earlier For Sale painting (1961), made by his corporeal and mental predecessor, the artist Barrie Bates, a year before he became the living artwork, Billy Apple - we see an examination of some...

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Mercurial consistency: Billy Apple Related Press Mercurial consistency: Billy Apple 4 September 2015, Art Asia Pacific

Without question one of Aotearoa New Zealand’s most remarkable artists, Billy Apple is nearing 80. His lengthy, and still ongoing, career has encompassed direct involvement in some of the most crucial phenomena of postwar and contemporary art, from Pop to Conceptualism, body art to institutional critique—sometimes all together. While...

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Compatible Partnership or Domination? Related Press Compatible Partnership or Domination? 31 July 2015, EyeContact

With its official opening last Saturday morning, the latest transmutation of the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery is now open for public inspection, alongside its dazzling new neighbour and partner (by virtue of sharing the same director), the Len Lye Centre. New Zealand Aotearoa’s art communities will watch Simon Rees with interest as he...

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