Aotearoa mourns passing of creative icon Billy Apple

Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Carmel Sepuloni has expressed her condolences at the passing of Billy Apple, one of New Zealand’s most influential artists.

“Today we’ve lost a giant of New Zealand art. Billy was a creative visionary, an inspiration and a friend to so many,” Carmel Sepuloni said. “Billy was a trailblazer in conceptual art and one of New Zealand’s most internationally celebrated artists.”

Born in Auckland, Billy studied at the at the Royal College of Arts in London before moving to New York to take up work as an arts director and further develop his unique style, becoming a leading figure in the pop art movement.

His contributions to the creative world are vast. Most notably, he established one of the first alternative exhibition spaces in New York, which he called ‘Apple’, as well as partnering with Andy Warhol on the 1964 American Supermarket exhibition. Billy returned to New Zealand in 1990 as a ‘blank slate’, focussing his creative energies on the intersections of art and commerce.  

Apple's work continues to be enjoyed worldwide, with collections at Te Papa, the Tate Britain, Scottish National Galleries of Modern Art, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Chrysler Museum of Art and Guggenheim Museum.

“Billy leaves a distinctive and enduring legacy, and his loss will be felt the world over, but particularly here in Aotearoa, his home. My thoughts are with Billy’s partner Mary, as well as his entire family and everyone who knew and loved Billy,” Carmel Sepuloni said.