The Big Apple

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AUCKLAND, Today: Auckland University Press is about to release the first substantial book, Billy Apple: Life/Work, by Christina Barton, on the career of pop (and advertising) artist Billy Apple.

Apple (born Barrie Bates in Auckland, 1935) is not only a global pioneer of pop & conceptual art, but is probably New Zealand’s most internationally significant living artist.

But many fans are not aware he’s also enjoyed a long career as an advertising creative …

  • Before he left NZ he worked for Farmers (in 1956) in their advertising department where he designed their Western-style logo that was familiar so shoppers right through to the 1980s.
  • At the Royal College of Art in London he won the inaugural Layton’s Student Award with his ads for a We All Love Tea campaign (1961).
  • On his first trip to NYC he did a six-week internship with legendary graphic designer/typographer Herb Lubalin at Sudler, Hennessey, & Lubalin on Madison Ave in 1961.
  • Once he moved to NYC he worked on and off at several agencies, including Jack Tinker & Partners; Doyle Dane Bernbach; Case & Krone (Helmut Krone masterminded the all-time-famous VW ads), and others through the second half of the 1960s.
  • A memorable campaign was for Lowrey Organs when he was at DDB, working with copywriter Bob Cotton they made a TV commercial consisting only of the word ‘Advertisement’, with a voiceover extolling the sound of the organ.
  • His most successful campaign was Tareyton Cigarettes I’d rather light than fight campaign for Daniel & Charles in 1978.
  • He stopped working fulltime for ad agencies in the 1980s, but kept his hand in with Saatchi NZ on marketing Marcus Lush’s Radio Live talkshow (2008).

“Billy Apple worked with Saatchi NZ on ads for Marcus Lush’s Radio Live.”

At the Royal College of Art in London from 1959-62, Apple studied with key contemporaries – notably David Hockney – and staged one of the earliest solo exhibitions in the new ‘pop’ art after changing his name, in 1962, to Billy Apple.

He returned to live in New Zealand in 1990 where he continues to produce his particular brand of conceptual art.

The book
Based on over a decade of research and unprecedented access to Apple’s own archive, Billy Apple: Life/Work chronicles his extraordinary 60-year career and the art scenes that have sustained it in London, New York and Auckland.

The book includes 200 illustrations in colour.

New York University professor of modern art Rosalie Crow reviewed it: “Barton’s deep and long acquaintance with her subject lends convincing authority to her account; indeed, it is difficult to imagine another writer as competent, informed and motivated enough to fill this major gap in the literature of postwar art.”

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