Billy has died aged 85 and was described in the press as one of “the genuine greats of New Zealand art” which if so, raises the question why there’s no mention of him in the numerous New Zealand art history books.
He telephoned me a few years back wanting to buy my Maserati. I pointed out that his request was tantamount to defamation in implying I would own such a thing. It transpired he was a keen collector of fancy sports cars.
I admit that when it comes to cars I’m an odd-ball compared with most males, having not the slightest interest in them. Indeed in a gap period a decade back when I didn’t have my own private jet I once had to take a taxi from the airport to my office as I couldn’t remember what my car looked like.
My first awareness of Billy Apple goes back to last century. A curiosity at the time of the New Zealand and Australian dealer art gallery world was a public disinterest in buying sculptures, although that’s no longer the case.
So it was with delight when an invitation for a sculptor’s art opening arrived from New Zealand’s then leading art gallery, Peter McLeavey. To get in first I bowled along early before any competitive buyers could arise.
Peter handed me a glass of red and I looked around the empty room. “Where’s the bloody sculptures?” I asked. “Well’, said Peter, spreading his arms, ‘this is it, all around you”.
Old hands who remember Peter will have no difficulty believing that. Billy’s “artistic effort”, it transpired, was repainting the walls a different colour.
My comic novella “Modern Society” published with three other novellas last year, dealt with this bullshit.
My favourite memory of this nonsense was another Peter McLeavey sculpture exhibition last century in which again I was first to arrive. Peter duly handed me a glass of red and when I again queried where the sculptures were, he pointed to the corner of the gallery.
There lay a shallow tray filled with sand. On it sat a battered old canvas deck chair. At that moment a great roaring and bellowing arose and in staggered Sam Hunt, blind drunk, yelling for a drink. Taking a red he looked about, spotted the deckchair and crashed down into it, smashing it to smithereens. I promptly offered to buy it subject to Peter displaying it in his home for a year, it having a spacious main sitting room. When I phoned to follow up the next morning Peter advised that the distraught “artist” had withdrawn it from sale.
There is no human activity, not even wine pretentiousness, and that’s saying something, that matches the art world for bullshit.