Being Billy Apple is a documentary about the artist known as Billy Apple. Genius or con, the spectrum of opinion on the life and work of this New Zealand born maverick is infinite.
Born Barry Bates in New Zealand in the 1930s Billy Apple studied at the Royal College of Art in London before re-branding himself “Billy Apple a living work of art” in 1962.
Billy moved to New York in the mid-60s where he took part in a ground breaking Pop Art exhibition which featured Roy Lichenstein, Claus Oldenburg and Andy Warhol. He went on to run his own gallery, “Apple”, one of a handful of artist run spaces in Manhattan that was part of the emerging conceptual art scene.
Billy’s art and life were extreme. When he ceased to be Barry Bates he cut off all contact with his family in New Zealand. As a living artwork everything he did was classified as art including works like “Window Cleaning” and “Floor Scrubbing”. Billy continually pushed the boundaries of what it meant to be an artist.
Billy Apple has sparked outrage and incredulity, inspiration and awe. His works are held by some of the world’s most important galleries including the Guggenheim and The Tate. He never shuns controversy and lives every minute of his life as an artwork.
Being Billy Apple isn’t always easy, for him or those around him. It is, however, a fascinating journey from Pop Artist to Brand, with no shortage of heartache and humour along the way.