In November 1966, Yoko Ono debuted her art piece, Apple at her exhibit titled Unfinished Paintings and Objects at London’s Indica gallery.
This was where Beatle John Lennon first encountered the Japanese artist and her work in November 1966. He thought that the bright green Granny Smith apple on a plexiglas pedestal with itsasking price of £200 was “pretty funny”, and proceeded to take a bite prior to the show’s opening the next day. This modern tale of Adam and Eve began the ballad of John and Yoko, leading to a wider world view of Ono’s art. It also began the turbulent, yet exciting years for the infamous couple who would dedicate their eternal union to promoting peace.
” …he looked very beautiful, a very elegant kind of guy… it would be nice to have an affair or something with somebody like this. Then I thought, ‘I’m too busy now.’
When he did the apple – ‘Oh well, forget it.'”
– Yoko, Uncut Ultimate Music Guide, 2010
“I finally met Yoko and the dream became a reality.”
– John Lennon, The Ballad of John and Yoko
Yoko was not only presenting nature’s perfect creation, the apple on a pedestal. She was also – unwittingly – an avant-garde Johnny Appleseed leaving a trail of seeds, using nature to nurture conceptual art via the forbidden fruit. (Her art also assimilated many other elements of nature; sky, wind, water, air…the whole universe!) In her collaboration with nature, Yoko presents an apple’s beauty and transience as it decays – life as art, art as life.
In religion and in mythology, the apple is associated with
love, sensuality, sin and temptation.
“The apple is the wisdom we gave to men“
– Yoko Ono 2010
Upon entering Yoko’s One Woman Show at the Museum of Modern Art (New York City, May 2015) the first vision was a brightly lit, glowing green Apple on the original cracked Plexiglas pedestal from 1966 – with a security guard standing behind it. I asked if he felt silly guarding an apple. He replied, “Yes, because it’s totally replaceable!” He said that it would be often replaced with a fresh apple, contrary to Yoko’s original idea of the piece…
“There is the excitement of watching the apple decay, and the decision as to whether to replace it, or just thinking of the beauty of the apple after it’s gone.”
–Yoko Ono, Daily Sketch November 15, 1966
For what became John and Yoko’s Acorn Event (1968) at Coventry Church, Yoko had originally planned to bury an apple so that a tree would grow, but John suggested planting acorns facing east and west instead (signifying their union).
“Art is a beautiful thing but art is not just creating something. People who think that are wrong. Everything is created already in the world. Nature created everything and you don’t have to create anything anymore, so art then is just reevaluating what is already there.” – Yoko Ono, International Times 1971
Inevitably, a comparison to Duchamp was made, because of his use of readymade objects. The two artists’ commonality was that their art was ‘off the canvas, and off the wall’
“I felt that I had gone a step further from (Duchamp’s) idea of found objects…I was saying, Here’s something I’m presenting that you can add to…”
–Yoko to Hans Ulrich Obrist, November 2001
And in the end…
“When it deteriorates and disappears,
the pedestal with the ‘APPLE’ plaque will just be left there like a tombstone.”
– Yoko, MoMA films and talks 2015
What happened to those pieces?
I’ll show them to you. They’re in the house.
Sean and I put an apple on the stand now and then, but Sean always eats it.
John, to David Sheff – The Playboy Interviews 1980
THE OTHER APPLE…
The Beatles’ Apple Records label was, launched in the summer of 1968. The apple logo was first used on the single ‘Hey Jude’/’Revolution’.
“I had this friend called Robert Fraser, who was a gallery owner in London…We were discovering Magritte in the sixties… we just loved his sense of humour. And when we heard that he was a very ordinary bloke who used to paint from nine to one o’clock, and with his bowler hat, it became even more intriguing. One day Robert brought this painting to my house.”
– Paul McCartney to Belgian journalist Johan Ral, 1993
The name of the painting is actually ‘Le jeu de mourre’ (The Game of Mora). In René Magritte – Catalogue Raisonné (1993), it is listed as number 1051 and situated late in the artist’s life, in 1966. As Paul still owns the original painting, only a black and white photograph is available to the public. A colorized version has been re-created.
“We were out in the garden and Robert didn’t want to interrupt, so when we went back in the big door from the garden to the living room, there on the table he’d just propped up this little Magritte. It was of a green apple. That became the basis of the Apple logo. Across the painting Magritte had written in that beautiful handwriting of his ‘Au Revoir’. …And this big green apple, which I still have now, became the inspiration for the logo. And then we decided to cut it in half for the B-side!””
– Paul McCartney, Groovy Bob:The Life and Times of Robert Fraser, Harriet Vyner (1999)
René Magritte passed away in 1967 at age 68.
(More photos below)
When Yoko had her Bronze Age exhibition at the Whitney Museum in 1989, I was disturbed to see all of her translucent or white art objects recreated and laden in bronze. The next day while shopping, I found a crystal apple. I sent it to her for her birthday. (I also got one for myself). She sent me a beautiful thank you note, saying that she keeps my apple in her office. I hope it lightens her spirit every day.
This is an excerpt from my Yoko Ono biography – now available.
An all-embracing look at Yoko Ono’s life, music and art – in stunning detail.