Billy Apple blurs the line between life and art with a new installation that celebrates the triumphant, record-shattering 1995 campaign of the Christchurch-designed Britten V1000 motorbike.
New Zealand conceptual artist Billy Apple has built his career on blurring the line between life and art. This new installation focuses on his other great passion – motor racing – and celebrates the achievements of John Britten, the visionary Christchurch designer whose small team created the world's most innovative motorcycle.
The Britten V1000 broke four world speed records and attained legendary status for its revolutionary 'frameless' design. Apple's exhibition features the actual motorcycle that took the world by storm during the 1995 British European American Racing Series, accompanied by text-based works celebrating that triumphant campaign.
Journalist Nick Ienatsch, who rode the Britten for an article in Sport Rider magazine in 1995, wrote of how the racetrack crowd ran to the pits to see and hear the bike start up: "I wondered if a NASCAR engine had just fired up; the Britten spewed sound like a fire hose gushes water." Have a listen for yourself of it idling and flying past.
Billy Apple: Towards the Centre
Conceptual artist Billy Apple will arrive in Christchurch in June to realise an artistic statement first proposed for the McDougall Art Gallery in 1979.
It is exactly ten years since I wrote my first foreword for Te Puna o Waiwhetū Christchurch Art Gallery’s Bulletin. Then, the shadow of an elongated sculpture by Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti featured on the front cover of B.147, as we heralded the arrival of Giacometti: Sculptures, Prints and Drawings from the Maeght Foundation in November 2006. Toured by the Art Gallery of New South Wales, it was memorable and moving, and looking its very best here in our high-ceilinged and relatively new gallery spaces.
It’s hard to fathom just how much has happened since, both in and around our inner-city art gallery. In particular, I look back on our five years of closure with a mixture of wonder and disbelief.
Another Big Step Forward
Since mid July we’ve been enjoying the first major exhibition change downstairs. While it was difficult to say goodbye to Unseen and Op + Pop – and to be rid of the colourful castor sugar (some 600kg were required) with which Tanya Schultz made Pip & Pop’s Newest New World – it’s now so rewarding to be the final venue for City Gallery Wellington’s exhibition of Kāi Tahu photographer Fiona Pardington’s A Beautiful Hesitation. Designing the display and augmenting the content of this show for our audiences feels like another big step towards being fully operational.
Fly Shit on the Windscreen
In February 2016, Bulletin sent graphic designer and motorbike enthusiast Luke Wood to sit down with artist Billy Apple to discuss bikes, and in particular the Britten V1000. Designed and built in Christchurch by John Britten, the V1000 is the star of Apple’s new exhibition, Great Britten! A Work by Billy Apple. The following extracts were taken from the conversation.
We’re extremely pleased to have Billy Apple’s GREAT BRITTEN! exhibition at the Gallery. A celebration of the ingenuity of the bike’s builder, John Britten, that blurs the line between life and art, it’s drawing bike lovers and art lovers alike into the Gallery in droves. And it’s pretty clear that, although not everyone is up for building a superbike in their garage, lots of you really love your wheels.
The record-setting superbike that stunned the world is coming to the Gallery as part of a new exhibition by acclaimed artist Billy Apple, with a special sneak-peek event happening this Thursday 14 July.
It's an open house. Come in. That's the simple message we'll be sending when the Gallery reopens later this year.
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On a recent trip to Wellington to attend the excellent Van der Velden symposium at Te Papa I saw the Britten motorcycle on display and was instantly reminded of one exhibition that was in the pipeline here at Christchurch Art Gallery prior to the big shakes, an exhibition that involved Billy Apple and the Britten motorcycle titled Great Britten!