Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Waving the flag

Changing countries used to be pretty punishing for artists but nowadays you can live, say, in Germany and still retain interest and maybe even a reputation back home (even a market!). It wasn’t always so. Artists like Jeffrey Harris paid a big price for relocating to Australia for a while and so too did Billy Apple when he moved to the United States in 1964 from London. In the time it took to cross the Atlantic Apple went from being a critical figure in the development of British Pop and particularly conceptual art to being virtually forgotten. For someone who was leading the UK charge for conceptual art Apple is simply not represented in British institutions (in its online catalogue the Tate has nothing) or in the British story.

All that may be changing as the UK starts to re-look at the late fifties and sixties giving the opportunity for neglected figures to be reassessed. Apple already has some serious support from the Mayor Gallery in London and now has been included in the recent Christie's show When Britain Went Pop! a curatorial/commercial mash-up designed to bootstrap UK Pop art into that rarefied 'museum-quality' air. So will Apple be sucked along in the jet stream of this promotional foray? At the moment it's still all Hockney, Blake, Hamilton and Jones in the media but Apple’s dramatic American flag featuring JFK is also attracting attention. There's another sign that Apple is being drawn back into the UK fold: he's just been interviewed by the indefatigable Hans Ulrich Obrist at the Serpentine Gallery.

Image: Billy Apple’s Xerox on fabric work The Presidential Suite: JFK in the Christie's exhibition When Britain went Pop!