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Born Barrie Bates, the artist was quick to identify ways artists could exploit ideas developed by marketers.

Billy Apple at the opening of Billy Apple® Six Decades 1962–2018, Rossi & Rossi, Hong Kong (9 June–28 July 2018). Courtesy Rossi & Rossi.

Innovative New Zealand-born artist Billy Apple has passed away aged 85.

'It is with great sadness we mark Billy Apple's passing peacefully at home in Auckland this morning,' Starkwhite, the artist's Auckland gallery, posted on Instagram on Monday 6 September.

'Billy was a monumental figure, a true pioneer and an artist who lived seamlessly with his practice,' they wrote.

Billy Apple, Wall Drawing (undated). Offset poster and pencil. Variable dimensions. Courtesy Hamish McKay.

Predating today's idea of the 'personal brand', Barrie Bates reinvented himself as the artwork 'Billy Apple' in 1962. He developed the concept after studying graphic design at the Royal College of Art in London.

In 1964 he relocated to New York where he later exhibited alongside artists such as Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Tom Wesselman, and Roy Lichtenstein.

Interested in the commercial aspects of art and the mechanics of selling it, his artworks explored performative productions of the artist's body and labour. Billy Apple artworks take the form of logos, IOUs, and contracts, as well as conceptually connected products like Billy Apple Cider and specially grown fruit called Billy Apples.

In 2008, his fruit-shaped logo was registered as an official trademark, while 'Immortalisation of Billy Apple®' saw his cells donated for cancer research, genetic analysis, and cloning. —[O]

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