Billy Apple

Billy Apple’s Biography

Visual Artist
Arts Foundation Icon 2018
Born 1935, Auckland. Rebranded 1962, London

Billy Apple was born in Auckland, New Zealand in 1935. After graduating from the Royal College of Art, London in 1962, he took the radical step of changing his name in order to establish a new identity as an art brand. In this self-branding manoeuvre where he became a work-of-art, he removed the arbitrary distinction between art and life so was able to claim everyday objects (like apples) and life activities (like cleaning and vacuuming) as art. To this day, Apple draws inspiration from reality and the world we live in.

Apple’s six-decade idea-driven art career began with pop-related works before developing into a conceptual and process-oriented practice. He moved across the Atlantic in 1964 and was curated into the landmark American Supermarket (Bianchini Gallery) and established APPLE, the second of New York’s seven original not-for-profit spaces at 161 West 23rd Street, NYC. He exhibited variously in New York’s museum, dealer gallery and alternative art scenes, including the Guggenheim and New Museum; Leo Castelli, Bianchini, and Howard Wise Galleries; 3 Mercer Street, Holly Solomon and the Clocktower and in 1975 was director of 112 Greene Street Gallery. In 1974, the Serpentine Gallery, London hosted a major survey exhibition which brought together Apple’s pop and conceptual art works. Apple has had over 250 solo exhibitions and has been curated into more than 250 group shows.

Since the early 1980s Apple has complemented his installation practice with text-based works. His Art Transaction series draws attention to the art system and highlights the network of relations that operate between artist, dealer, and collector. His Institutional Critiques represent his long-range investigations into the site-specifics, context and politics of spaces where art is exhibited. Apple became a registered trademark in 2007, formalizing his art brand status, and continues to develop projects that address the legal concept of intellectual property. He is currently working on collaborative scientific research projects, including the viral transformation of his blood cells into the Billy Apple® Cell Line; his entire genome was sequenced in 2014; DNA was extracted and analysed from a 1970 conceptual work, Excretory Wipings, which has extended microbiome research by more than forty years; and he has determined the centre of the newly defined fifth largest continent, albeit largely underwater, in the Centre of the Extended Continental Shelf of New Zealand.

Apple is currently exhibiting The Politics of Space (The Suter Art Gallery, Nelson); Billy Apple®: Trademark Registration (Te Tuhi, Pakuranga); Mutterzunge: Seeing and Hearing (Apartment Project, Berlin) and is preparing exhibitions for later in 2018 at Rossi & Rossi, Hong Kong and The Mayor Gallery, London. His works have been included in major touring exhibitions such as International Pop (Walker Art Center, Minneapolis 2015-16); Blue Times (Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna, 2014-15); Shopping: A Century of Art and Consumer Culture (Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt, 2002-3); Global Conceptualism: Points of Origin (Queen’s Museum, New York, 1999-2001). Recent survey exhibitions include The Artist Has to Live Like Everybody Else (Auckland Art Gallery 2015); Revealed Concealed and A History of the Brand (Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam 2009); British and American Works 1960-69 and New York 1970-75 (The Mayor Gallery, London 2010, 2013). His work is held in public collections such as the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh; Tate Britain; The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Guggenheim Museum, New York; Detroit Institute of Arts; National Gallery of Art, Canberra and Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand, Wellington. He is represented by Hamish McKay, Wellington, Starkwhite, Auckland and The Mayor Gallery, London.