Billy Apple® a Transformative Pop Artist
Born in Auckland, Barrie George Bates, aka Billy Apple, was “a pioneer in the conceptual art movement whose influence spanned art scenes in London, New York, and New Zealand”. Apple died on 5 September at the age of 85. In an obituary for ArtAsiaPacific magazine, Suining Sim looks back at a life very well led.
“As part of an international generation of pop artists who used commercial imagery to poke fun at the art world’s elitist pretensions, Billy Apple defined himself by dissolving the boundaries between visual art and mass consumer culture, eventually transforming himself into a brand,” Sim writes. “He exhibited widely in his lifetime, holding more than 250 solo exhibitions and contributing to more than 250 group shows. His work is held in public collections including the Tate Britain in London, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, and institutions across New Zealand, including the Auckland Art Gallery, Govett-Brewster Art Gallery in New Plymouth, and Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand in Wellington.
“In his later career, Apple pushed his conceptual projects even further, working with Hort+Research to brand a new apple cultivar, an experimentation with intellectual property that would see him formalise his brand status in 2007 and become a registered trademark. In introducing a new legal aspect into the maintenance of the Billy Apple construction, he blurred the lines between person and product in the 21st century.”
Original article by Suining Sim, ArtAsiaPacific, September 6, 2021.
Photo by Esther Chan.