Billy Apple

Paid: The Artist has to Live Like Everybody Else

1999
serigraph with receipt and payment slip attached
418mm x 294mm

signed Billy Apple in graphite lower right; inscribed 5249 c in ink lower right verso

Provenance

Private Collection, Auckland.

Essay

Billy Apple, born Barrie Bates in Auckland in 1935, established his career in art and advertising in London and New York from the 1960s through the 1980s, and returned to live a...

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Estimate $800 - $1,600
Achieved $1,407.00

Billy Apple

Paid: The Artist has to Live Like Everybody Else

1999

serigraph with receipt and payment slip attached

signed Billy Apple in graphite lower right; inscribed 5249 c in ink lower right verso

418mm x 294mm

Auction N˚3

Estimate $800 - $1,600

Achieved $1,407.00

Footnotes
  1. Billy Apple – Major Retrospective, Interview of Billy Apple by Wallace Chapman, Radio New Zealand National Programme, Broadcast 16 March 2015.
  2. Wystan Curnow, ‘As Good as Gold’, As Good as Gold: Billy Apple Art Transactions, 1981-1991. Wellington City Art Gallery, (Wellington: 1991). 31.
  3. ibid., 21.
  4. John Bywater, ‘Brand Management: Billy Apple Surveyed at Auckland Art Gallery’, Art New Zealand. (154: Winter 2015), 60.

The Artist Has to Live Like Everybody Else

by Frances Clark

Billy Apple, born Barrie Bates in Auckland in 1935, established his career in art and advertising in London and New York from the 1960s through the 1980s, and returned to live and work in New Zealand in 1990. Although he has resisted being considered a New Zealand artist specifically, and declared his is more of a “global mind,”¹

Apple is undoubtedly a prominent figure in New Zealand art history, particularly in bringing pop and conceptual art influences back to New Zealand in the 1970s and 1980s, and in continuing his conceptual practice here. As the registered trademark on his name suggests, ideas of commodification, exchange and identity under capitalism are central to much of his practice. Apple’s self-decribed “advising critic and sometime contributing copywriter”² Wystan Curnow is responsible for much of the language made text in Apple’s works, and their collaboration has often challenged the customary distinctions between artist, critic and curator. In relation to Apple’s first major institutional show upon his return to New Zealand, Curnow remarked that the work is “art of surfaces, not depths.”³ This quality is part of what makes Apple’s works affable but affronting.

This work shares its trademarked tagline – “The artist has to live like everybody else”—with Auckland Art Gallery’s 2015 retrospective of Apple’s work, the largest-to-date, in which others from this series, Paid (1987—), were displayed alongside around 200 other Billy Apple works. Paid (1987—) places bills, receipts and other financial records belonging to the artist between two blocks of uniform black-on-white text, and asks us to see them as both the art object and the actions they document as part of the artist’s practice. Jon Bywater’s analysis of the tagline puts perfectly the opacity of this phrase: it is at once a bald declaration of financial necessity, of the artist as business, and a “liberal appeal to the rights of the artist” and a “barb…[that] states a conservative demand, that the artist conform to social norms.”⁴