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Billy Apple

July 13, 2011

He wasn’t always Billy Apple. He used to be Barrie Bates. But in 1962 ‘he bleached his hair and eyebrows with Lady Clairol Instant Creme Whip and changed his name’. (Wiki) Does that make him New Zealand’s own Andy Warhol? He hung out with Andy at The Factory, and, like Warhol, used the language of branding and advertising in order to create art. Apple is all about the barter – some of his works are screen-prints of transactions. His most famous exchange was that of an pure gold apple, 103 ounces, that was sold to an Auckland investor. The contract was negotiated by he Auckland Coin & Bullion Exchange, and the document was as valuable as the golden apple itself.

Billy Apple was briefly a fan of my mother’s work. She was into yarn bombing in the 90s, way before it became fashionable. She once knitted 100 pink beer cosies and rugby balls. Billy Apple commissioned her to knit him gold and silver tea cosies. Try as she might, my mother couldn’t get him to write her a cheque or sign and I.O.U. That would have been a commodity, on-sellable for thousands of dollars. He payed her in cash, $20 per cosy. Billy Apple lost touch with my mother once she started painting super-sized roses. He was disgusted – the paintings looked traditional to his eye. But my mother, always the rebel, insisted she was on the vanguard by embracing a genre that had been shunned by the establishment.

But that’s what’s cool about Billy Apple – he’s always forcing you into conversations as to what art is.

I found these pictures on the Auckland Art Gallery site – you can see some more over there.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. chessie permalink
    October 30, 2011 5:03 pm

    how does he mae his artwork? paint? screenprint?

    • Sarah Laing permalink
      October 30, 2011 8:19 pm

      I would say he used to screenprint, but now he probably digitally prints. I’m not sure!

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