And, he says, if his art is making it into museums then he must be doing something right.
Today, his art makes it into a gallery: Bergman Gallery in Rarotonga. It’s difficult to know who’s more chuffed, Ben Bergman at netting such an internationally-celebrated artist, or Apple at the chance to make his first trip to the Pacific.
Apple and his wife Mary have been enjoying coffee on the water front, feeling the warm breeze. And they’ve been discovering the airy surrounds of the Beachcomber Gallery, the centre of art on Rarotonga.
Apple, 83, will be at the exhibition, which opens tonight.
Get him chatting, and he may tell you stories from his life travelling and meeting other famous artists – before they were famous.
Billy Apple says he doesn’t create work from influences, but rather has a set of concerns and works with his apple-brand design.
Apple’s collection for his exhibition in Rarotonga features his apple-brand design which is significant to him conceptually, as the apple halves and full apple represent the past, present and future.
“We all have a past and a present and a future,” says Apple.
“Apple”. Not just a name, not just a series of paintings, but a brand. His wife Mary, also an established artist, says her husband’s name change from “Barrie Bates” to “Billy Apple” was the first breaking wave in his career that defined his standing in art history.
For Apple, he sees his future as making it into art history rather than becoming a celebrity, breaking waves and breaking art norms.
Apple drives to portray ideas in his artwork, whether those are political or social. He deals with the world we live in.
“I remember listening to a radio programme years ago and this woman was interviewing Elvis Costello and she said ‘do you aim to please?’ and he said ‘I’m pleased to aim’.
“It’s a bit like that for me.”
Looking at news, he would ask ‘Where’s the ideas? Who’s home?’
Billy’s apple-brand works don’t particularly deal with anything political but show how over his career he has gone to an extent to make art his life, from his early pop and conceptual works to his investigations into branding and biomedicine – and now, his first trip to the Pacific.
“The Billy Apple brand is a product line of paintings which I look after,” says Apple.
Apple is unafraid to comment on other artists who may be trying to follow in his footsteps. He says he’s disappointed that a lot of art at the moment is mindless; conceptual art is a powerful outlet for an artist, he argues.
Pop art and conceptual art is typically hard to understand and Apple’s minimalist work may surprise the local audience tonight and its simplicity may be hard to like.
Apple’s type of art is new to the Bergman Gallery’s walls, and that’s why gallery owner Ben Bergman is keen to introduce the artwork to the public.
· Billy Apple in Rarotonga opens tonight at the Bergman Gallery, and will run until August 31. Entry is free.