From the Matuku Trust Collection

The Whangarei Art Museum presents an exhibition of privately owned works from the Matuku Trust collection by Billy Apple.

From the Matuku Trust Collection is the title for the collected artworks purchased by the Matuku Trust and is an art work itself. Billy Apple’s From the Collection series is in effect an art transaction between artist and collector. After commissioning the work, a collector works with Apple to have the art work personalised with their choice of colors, materials, logos and so forth, whilst conforming to the Billy Apple brand of graphics and composition. Thus a From the Collection work operates both as a text-based self portrait as well as a frontispiece for their collection.

Beginning with a work commissioned by the Bank of New Zealand in 1988, the series has since attracted a broad range of corporate, public and private clientele.

‘Whoever purchases a Billy Apple and becomes a party to one of his transactions, confesses a special interest in and desire for his work, and declares themselves a player in the art world. She or he says: I bought it. I swapped it. I exchanged it. I’m putting my money and my mark on an Apple and taking the consequences. I own it. Their ownership lacks the usual anonymity, a fact which becomes all too apparent whenever the works…enter…the context of public display.’

—Professor Wystan Curnow, 1991

The collection largely focuses on two strands in Billy Apple’s art practice—works from his Art Transaction series and his Fundraising series

Also included are two early pop art multiples produced after the artist graduated from the Royal College of Art, London in 1962 and changed his name to Billy Apple. This was a self-branding exercise where he took on a new persona as an art object, developed a corporate identity using apples and picked red and green as his brand colours. Exhibited are works marking 35, 40, 45 & 50 years of the brand, which is now a registered trademark.

In the 1980s, Apple began his Art Transaction series, which revealed the web of relationships that exist between artists, dealers and collectors. Featured are works from the series, Paid: The Artist Has To Live Like Everybody Else.

Billy Apple returned to live in Auckland in 1990 and began a series of art projects to raise funds for community organisations. Exhibited here are works from the Art for Aids, Women’s Refuge, Turn Your Life Around and Youthline art projects. For this exhibition, Te Puna O Te Aroha Women’s Refuge Inc., Whangarei, 1999, will be reproduced as a postcard available for purchase. All proceeds go to the Te Puna Women’s Refuge safe-house.

The From The Matuku Trust Collection gives an insight into Billy Apple’s distinctive art practice. By examining and breaking down the processes of the art world along with the activities of his every-day life, Billy Apple challenges established ideas and in the process changes the way art is made and experienced.

Billy Apple

BILLY APPLE was born Barrie Bates in Auckland, New Zealand in 1935. He left New Zealand in 1959 to study graphic design at the Royal College of Art in London. After graduating in 1962, he changed his name to Billy Apple.

In 1964 he moved to New York where he continued to produce pop-related paintings and objects before developing a body of neon sculptures, showing at various venues including the Bianchini Gallery, Howard Wise Gallery and the Pepsi Cola Gallery.

By 1969 Apple had shifted to a more conceptual and process-oriented practice. To create a venue for his work he established Apple, a not-for-profit space at 161 West 23rd Street which he operated between October 1969 and May 1973. A major survey of Apple’s work, which brought together his pop and conceptual works from 1960 to 1974, was staged at the Serpentine Gallery in London in 1974. He exhibited regularly at various venues in New York’s alternative art scene including 3 Mercer Street, Holly Solomon and the Clocktower, and for one year was director of 112 Greene Street Gallery (1975-76).

Apple remained in New York until 1990, continuing to exhibit his work in various venues, including Leo Castelli Gallery (in 1977, 1978, 1980, and 1984). He also made two extended tours to New Zealand in 1975 and 1979-80, producing a string of site-specific installations in dealer and public galleries throughout the country.

Since the early 1980s Apple has complemented his installation practice with text-based works that draw attention to the art system and highlight the network of relations that operate between artist, dealer, and collector.

He became a registered trademark in 2007 to formalise his art brand status and continues to develop projects that address this, for example working with apple growers over the production and branding of a new apple cultivar and a collaborative art/science project, The Immortalisation of Billy Apple®, in which cells from his blood have been virally transformed to create a cell line that will live outside the body for use in studies like cancer research.


Download media release here

Visit Billy Apple’s website here

Charitable Works information sheets