Artist KAWS Reveals the Inspiration Behind His New Sculpture in Brooklyn

AD gets the first look at the new large-scale installation

By Jordi Lippe-Mcgraw

October 7, 2019

KAWS unveiled his newest sculpture in Brooklyn.

KAWS unveiled his newest sculpture in Brooklyn.

Brian Donnelly, aka the artist KAWS, is one of the most in-demand talents. Though he started as a graffiti artist and even did a stint at Disney as a background animation painter, it’s his large-scale toy figures that cemented his legendary status. The 45-year-old created a giant floating sculpture in a lake in Seoul, designed a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon, and has produced pieces that have sold for over $1 million.

With so much buzz around the artist, fans are eager to know when a new piece will be revealed. Well, the answer is now. Architectural Digest learned exclusively that the latest sculpture from KAWS, titled WAITING, will debut today at The Greenpoint, new luxury apartments in Brooklyn. The piece will feature one large and one small KAWS sculpture, totaling more than 20 feet in height, and stand just outside the property, near the India Street ferry stop.

The work depicts KAWS’s famous COMPANION character and shows a large protective figure offering a compassionate or familial gesture to a smaller figure in a moment of reflection and stillness. In WAITING, these larger-than-life characters look out to the water, greet ferry commuters at the pier, and welcome residents, neighbors, and international visitors to this burgeoning destination.


An aerial rendering shows the position of KAWS's  WAITING  sculpture.  Photo: Courtesy of the Greenpoint

An aerial rendering shows the position of KAWS's WAITING sculpture.

Photo: Courtesy of the Greenpoint

Because KAWS is based in North Brooklyn, he was a compelling choice for this waterfront location, according to Mack Real Estate Group, the developers of the project. KAWS found inspiration from this proximity, as well.

“When I was invited to do this commission, I was living a few blocks from the site,” he tells AD. “My wife was often taking the ferry, and I was imagining going to wait for her to arrive. That’s where the title WAITING came from. I was inspired thinking about the many people from all walks of life getting on and off the ferry passing the sculpture.”

He adds, “I hope when people pass the sculpture, it takes them out of their routine commute and leads them to new thoughts and puts them in touch with their surroundings in a new way.”

The developers hope the unique sculpture helps to bring the community together. “Public art can become a unique focal point for a community, drawing people together through moments of shared enjoyment and thought-provoking discussion,” Richard Mack, CEO & co-founder of Mack Real Estate Group, tells AD. “WAITING has great potential to provide that for the Greenpoint and for Greenpoint more broadly, and we continue to seek opportunities for thoughtful art installations in our properties.”

Asked how this piece is different than previous works, KAWS says it's the location. “It’s the first public work that I could visit on a lunch break,” he tells us. “I love knowing it’s only a few blocks from my studio.”


A Monumental Canvas by Yoshitomo Nara Sells for $25 Million in Hong Kong, Shattering the Artist’s Previous Auction Record

It is the latest in a slew of artist records to be set at auction in Hong Kong.

Naomi Rea, October 7, 2019

Yoshitomo Nara Knife Behind Back (2000). Courtesy Sotheby's Hong Kong.

Yoshitomo Nara Knife Behind Back (2000). Courtesy Sotheby's Hong Kong.

A work by the Japanese artist Yoshitomo Nara sold for nearly $25 million at Sotheby’s contemporary evening sale in Hong Kong on Saturday, smashing the artist’s previous auction record by a factor of five. As protesters flooded the streets of central Hong Kong over the weekend, the sale carried on—and, perhaps surprisingly, outperformed expectations. The auction brought in HK$538 million ($68.6 million), exceeding its pre-sale high estimate of HK$408 million ($52 million).

Six bidders duked it out for a lengthy ten minutes to get their hands on Nara’s Knife Behind Back (2000), which ultimately sold for $24.9 million with premium. The artist completed the canvas—his largest ever to come to auction—the same year he returned to Japan after spending 12 years in Germany. In the painting, one of his trademark wide-eyed children stares out crankily at the viewer with one hand behind her back; only the title offers an ominous indication of what she is holding in her hand. 

Four of Nara’s five top auction results have been set between 2018 and 2019, according to the artnet Price Database. His previous record was established in May when Sleepless Night (Cat) (1999) sold at Christie’s Hong Kong for $4.5 million with premium. 

…Now, all eyes will be on the November sales in New York to see if Nara’s work makes another appearance and can maintain its market momentum, or whether Knife Behind Back will be more of a one-hit wonder.

Banksy’s Chimp Parliament Painting Sells for a Startling $12 Million, Prompting Both Cheers and Jeers

'Devolved Parliament' came in equal to a work by Basquiat, and dwarfed interest in another monkey painting—by Francis Bacon.

Colin Gleadell, October 3, 2019

Gallery workers display Banksy's 'Devolved Parliament' prior to a photo call at Sotheby's on September 27, 2019 in London, England. Photo by Peter Summers/Getty Images.

Gallery workers display Banksy's 'Devolved Parliament' prior to a photo call at Sotheby's on September 27, 2019 in London, England. Photo by Peter Summers/Getty Images.

There is absolutely no doubt about what stole the thunder this evening at Sotheby’s Frieze week contemporary art auction—and it was a bunch of monkeys.

Devolved Parliament, the massive painting by Banksy of chimpanzees sitting, chewing, scratching, and just generally being chimpanzees in Britain’s House of Commons sold for a record £9.9 million pounds ($12.1 million). That total was nearly five times the high estimate of £2 million ($2.47 million). It was also by far a record for a work by the street artist at auction, which was previously the $1.87 million paid for Keep It Spotless at Sotheby’s New York way back in 2008.

Laughter, seemingly representing both delight and disbelief, spread throughout the room during the nearly 13-minute bidding battle.

Among the early bidders were Warhol/Basquiat/Hirst trader-collector Jose Mugrabi and Turkish banker Halit Cingillioglu, who first took the price beyond the low £1.5 million estimate. But they were soon submerged beneath a torrent of telephone bids—and one persistent bidder at the back of the room—until the Banksy fell to the phone manned by Emma Baker, Sotheby’s head of sale.

The painting was the top lot of the sale, coming equal with Pyro by Jean-Michel Basquiat, which performed less remarkably, selling within estimate. “It’s a big moment,” said Sotheby’s Alex Branczik after the sale, “when Banksy shares top price with Basquiat.”

He might have added that it is a big moment when a Banksy painting of chimpanzees sold for more than a Francis Bacon of chimpanzees. Bacon’s 1951 painting, Figure with Monkey, sold just above its estimate for £2.8 million ($3.4 million) this evening to British art advisor Wentworth Beaumont.

It had been suggested that Banksy himself was the seller of the painting because the work had changed—it was darker in tone, with a few bananas added—since it was last exhibited. But Sotheby’s claimed that Banksy had simply asked the owner if he could make the changes. (This side plot amounted to a slightly less intriguing mystery than the one inspired by Banksy’s trick artwork Girl with Balloon, which self-destructed in the auction room last year after being sold, gaining worldwide press attention.)

The artist himself addressed the rumors on Instagram after the sale, posting an image featuring a quote from the late art critic Robert Hughes decrying high auction prices, and offering the laconic caption: “Record price for a Banksy painting set at auction tonight. Shame I didn’t still own it.”

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So the seller remains a mystery.

“We gave it a shot but didn’t get it,” said Jonathan Cheung of the Maddox Gallery of Devolved Parliament. “It’s a super piece… No surprises at £10 million in my opinion—especially given the prices being achieved at the print level!”

Not all of the art world was so complimentary, though.

“I call BS to compare (favorably) his art to the art of Jean Michel Basquiat as ‘street artists,'” art advisor Josh Baer wrote in his auction newsletter, the Baerfaxt, after the sale. “Look at a JMB painting vs this work, which is pretty much a poster. If your art advisor is 14 years old, and has been pushing you to also go long Kaws, then the rest of us art advisors over 30 or whatever should just quit.”

Banksy Can Insult His Collectors All He Wants—It Won’t Keep Them From Buying, a Recent $1.4 Million Christie’s Auction Proves

A sarcastically titled sale of Banksy works drew eager buyers who didn't seem to mind the artist calling them "morons."

Eileen Kinsella, September 25, 2019

Banksy,  Girl with Balloon  (2004). Image courtesy of Christie's.

Banksy, Girl with Balloon (2004). Image courtesy of Christie's.

Depending on whose side you take, the cheeky title of an auction of work by the street artist Banksy—”I can’t believe you morons actually buy this sh*t,” a name taken from one of the artist’s own works—either worked like a charm or was an utter failure.

Doing precisely what the artist derides them for, buyers at Christie’s snapped up each of the online sale’s 29 lots, for a total of $1.4 million (far above presale expectations of $587,000 to $901,000). The top lot of the event was Banksy’s 2004 screenprint Girl with Balloon, featuring a gold heart-shaped balloon, which sold for £395,250 ($492,500)—a record for a Banksy print. Another Girl with Balloon, with a red heart, sold for £62,500 ($77,880).

Surprised onlookers react as Banksy’s  Girl With a Balloon  self-destructs at Sotheby’s.

Surprised onlookers react as Banksy’s Girl With a Balloon self-destructs at Sotheby’s.

Both prints are similar to the now infamous work that automatically shredded during a sale last year at Sotheby’s London, just after the gavel came down at $1.4 million. Sotheby’s later revealed that the winning bidder, who was described as a “female European collector” and a “longstanding client,” had decided to keep the work in its shredded form after a week of negotiations.

“When the hammer came down last week and the work was shredded, I was at first shocked, but gradually I began to realize that I would end up with my own piece of art history,” the collector said in a statement. (Banksy, meanwhile, agreed to “re-authenticate” the piece with a new title, Love Is in the Bin.)

Sotheby’s made the most of its publicity coup, describing the object as “the first work in history ever created during a live auction”—a claim to which Banksy could have easily replied: “I can’t believe you morons actually buy this…” well, you get it. (That quote, by the way, comes from the title of a 2007 work by Banksy depicting an auctioneer in a crowded salesroom.)

Meanwhile, the rumor mill has been churning of late about the possibility that Banksy is actually a member of the trip-hop group Massive Attack, which is kicking off a three-day concert series at Radio City Music Hall this week. “If the conspiracy buffs are right, you’ll want to be on the lookout for witty graffiti popping up around New York City this weekend,” the New York Post said. “Some believe that Banksy, the elusive, anonymous creator of politically cheeky graffiti and [vocalist Robert ‘3D’] Del Naja—who sings about having ‘a soul without a mind’ and ‘a body without a heart’—are the same person.”


Contemporary artist Kaws on success, critics, and his new Australian exhibition

Ahead of his first exhibition in Australia, Brian Donnelly (aka Kaws) opens the doors of his Brooklyn studio to show how a graffiti artist from Jersey became one of the most influential artists of his generation.

You would assume when an artist’s painting sells at auction for more than A$20 million, they’d have an ego. That they’d be demanding, precious or painful, even. What you wouldn’t expect is that they’d be quietly spoken, perfectly polite and almost shy about their success. But this is exactly who Vogue stumbles upon when visiting the Williamsburg studio of Brian Donnelly, who has worked under the pseudonym of Kaws since the early 90s. Having started out in street art, he is now regularly labelled one of the most prolific artists of the moment – just don’t expect him to tell you that himself, or name-drop one of the many celebrities who collects his work.

Dressed in what he jokes has been his uniform for the past 20 years (plain T-shirt, dark pants, grey sneakers and cap), Donnelly, 45, opens the large roller door to his studio to reveal a collision of colour and cartoons. White walls and polished concrete floors contrast with paint bottles in neat formation and bold works-in-progress destined for his first Australian exhibition, at the National Gallery of Victoria in September.

It’s a coup for the gallery, which has been courting the artist for more than three years, and Donnelly, in his own unassuming way, is excited to be showcasing paintings, sculptures, fashion collaborations plus more in Australia for the first time.

“It’s just sort of an introduction,” he offers, now sitting upstairs surrounded by Kaws plush toys and the Moonman trophy he redesigned for the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards. “I’m considering this [exhibition] as if I’m showing up to a place where people have never heard of me.”

It’s also a chance, Donnelly says, to explain how a graffiti artist with a love of skateboarding infiltrated the art world and came to achieve both elite and mass appeal. “When I was coming up there was only Keith [Haring] and to me he was the most accessible person working in the contemporary art world. But I feel like that has since expanded.”

Donnelly grew up in Jersey City, across the river from Manhattan, and says he fell into street art like a regular hobby. “It’s just something I gravitated towards and usually did in my own time. You’re young, you’re skating, other kids are doing graffiti and it’s all around you. Then as I got more into it, I realised how it was this ‘thing’ happening everywhere.”

When he hit his teens, Donnelly started working under the Kaws name (choosing the letters because they looked good together) and made friends with other ‘graf’ fans via a magazine called Undercover. They’d photograph graffiti from their respective cities then trade the hard copies with others. Donnelly shares a post from his Instagram of a “rusted out” freight train carriage he tagged back in 1994 that was spotted again a year ago.

Untitled (collaboration with David Sims) (2001). Image credit: courtesy of the artist and NGV.

Untitled (collaboration with David Sims) (2001). Image credit: courtesy of the artist and NGV.

Eventually he went to art school in New York to study illustration before working on backgrounds for Disney on 101 Dalmatians and other shows like Daria and Doug.

After dabbling with animation paint, a medium he still uses today, Donnelly gained prominence for his take on ‘subvertising’ in New York City. At night he would remove brand ads from the likes of Calvin Klein and Guess from bus shelters, telephone boxes and even billboards, take them back to his family home, then customise them with his own illustrations before posting them in areas of his choosing.

“I started to realise the parallels between graffiti and advertising and just communication in general – how to reach people,” Donnelly remembers. “I thought the ads were a great vehicle to get work out there. A lot of people thought it was anti-advertising, anti-establishment. For me it was more about just existing in my environment and taking these larger things and making them my own.”

His reworked ads became so popular that people started stealing them. Even now, an original will emerge at auction and Donnelly does his best to buy those back.

By the late 90s, he’d moved into 3D, creating his first Kaws’s toy, called Companion – now a regular fixture of his work – with Tokyo-based company Bounty Hunter, after a trip to Japan. With its oversized head, crosses for eyes and Mickey Mouse-style body, Companion has appeared in painting, sculpture and even caused New York’s Museum of Modern Art website to crash after a limited-edition figurine went on sale in 2017.

“When you’re young, it’s not like people are telling you how to do things. It’s not like you even know who to ask or what to ask,” Donnelly says of his unconventional career path. “So when you find yourself in this situation where you can make something you’ve never made before … it blows your mind. What else can you make? What if you could do it this big? Or what if it’s real?”

Jumping from medium to medium and fusing art with commerce has become a common thread. Since the early 2000s the Kaws name has been lent to Nike and Marc Jacobs for footwear, Comme des Garçons, Kiehl’s for beauty, and album cover art for Kanye West. As an artist Donnelly has worked with giant inflatables (after creating a four-metre tall Companion for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade in 2012), become proficient in sculpture and enjoyed a stint mashing up cartoon characters from The SmurfsSpongeBob SquarePants and The Simpsons (which he calls The Kimpsons).

It was a painting of the latter (titled The Kaws Album) that was responsible for the record-breaking auction earlier this year. Riffing off the cover art from the Beatles’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album but using the cast from The Simpsons, it was sold by its owner for more than 15 times what Sotheby’s had expected. While Donnelly won’t be drawn on who dropped more than A$20 million for the piece (“It was just a collector and they texted me straight after”), speculation was rife that the buyer was Justin Beiber, because the singer posted a shot of the painting soon after.

“I think anybody who tells you they weren’t surprised is lying,” Donnelly says of the sale. “But it’s not as though I feel I have any part in it. I feel like I’m looking at it like everyone else, and being like: ‘Oh, that’s interesting.’” While many artists would have been happy with the windfall, Donnelly says he “wasn’t so thrilled” – because the sale happened straight after he sent a 37-metre-long inflatable Companion figure down Victoria Harbour in Hong Kong as part of a new exhibition. “I had just done that piece in the water and everything went well on that project and we got everyone covering it – news stations and CNN; it was on the front page of newspapers. So I was on a high and then the auction happened and I was just like: ‘Blergh.’

It just sort of took everything and made it a number … about money. I made [that painting] over 10 years ago. It just existed. But now there’s this number attached to it. It’s becomes a thing.”

Ironically, the less Donnelly seems to care about money the more he makes. In 2018 his works sold for a combined A$48 million at auction (an increase of 113 per cent from the previous year). His global influence is growing exponentially too, thanks to Instagram (he has 2.2 million followers and the Kaws hashtag has been used more than one million times), as well as ranges with Japanese high-street retailer Uniqlo, one of which was responsible for a riot in China recently. “Uniqlo has an omnipresence,” Donnelly agrees. “I have two kids and I’ll be at the playground and there will be other kids we don’t know [wearing the pieces]. It’s strange. Uniqlo has that sort of [reach] and that’s why I loved working with them. They have all these stores in different countries and that lets you have a synchronised global release.”

Donnelly’s high-low approach to contemporary art has won him many fans around the world, but he has had his critics, too. He’s been called out by curators who prefer fine art ‘purity’, and a piece in The Art Newspaper earlier this year accused him of “conceptual bankruptcy”. But Donnelly is unfazed. “I always felt like what Keith Haring and his Pop Shop did for inclusivity was really important. I think about how that stuff got to me in my house in Jersey City. What did I get to see? And how can I make work that disseminates in that same way?” He’s equally ambivalent about the New York art scene, explaining that “there are really great things about it, there are really negative things about it – it’s like any scene”.

“I get what I need out of it,” Donnelly continues. “There are a lot of artists I really enjoy meeting and talking with and reflecting on their work, so there are lots of positives, but then there’s a lot of BS that you have to wade through.”

Not that Donnelly needs more allies, anyway. He’s good friends with Pharrell Williams (“We’re close,” is all he’ll say) and pals with Dior Homme creative director Kim Jones, which explains why the designer tapped Donnelly to work on revamping the label’s logo, as well as asking him to create a giant sculpture made of flowers for the spring/summer ’19 show.

His wife, Julia Chiang, is also an artist, and Donnelly plans on bringing her as well as their two girls, Sunny, five and Lee, almost three, out to Australia later this year. His exhibition, titled Kaws: Companionship in the Age of Loneliness, is being billed as the most comprehensive survey of Donnelly’s work to date and includes a selection of sculptures, murals, products designs and paintings – including the record-breaking Kimpsons piece on loan from its owner. Also on display will be a special commission of an 8.5 metre-tall bronze Companion sculpture titled Gone, which will become part of the gallery’s permanent collection.

When showing Vogue through a model of the exhibition, Donnelly makes the joke “the NGV show kicked me into cataloguing stuff” and says he never would’ve imagined he’d end up here. Yet in a story he did with Interview magazine a decade ago, Donnelly said he “woke up wanting to do [graffiti] and fell asleep thinking about it” when he was younger. He says it’s still the same, but probably due more to being so busy. “At this point there are a lot of balls in the air and a lot of things to think about – how to orchestrate these projects and get things made. It’s not just me alone. It’s working with all different foundries and people in different countries and trying to keep things on track.”

As for his hopes for the NGV show? “There is no hope!” he mocks. “It’s just for people to come and see the work. Hopefully it makes them curious to know more.”

Kaws: Companionship in the Age of Loneliness opens at the National Gallery of Victoria on September 20. NGV design store and Kaws have also collaborated on a limited-edition collection that will be available from September 20 online and at the NGV design store, located at NGV International.

This article originally appeared in Vogue Australia's September 2019 issue.

20th Sep 2019

JESSICA MONTAGUE

KAWS Announces Retail Collection for Upcoming Exhibition, Previews Pink 'GONE' Companion Figure

The collection will coincide with the artist’s show at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne.

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KAWS has just shared an image of a pink and grey version of his new ‘GONE’ companion vinyl figure, closely following the artist’s initial preview of a black version last month.

Both new figures will release on the occasion of KAWS’ upcoming exhibition “COMPANIONSHIP IN THE AGE OF LONELINESS” at National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. Along with the preview, KAWS also announced that he has collaborated with the gallery’s accompanying design store, NGV Design Store, to create a full retail collection that will drop on the exhibition’s opening day.

According to both KAWS and NGV Design Store, the collection will go live both online and in-store September 20 at 10 am Australian Eastern Standard Time. Besides the two new ‘GONE’ companion figures, the rest of the collection is still under wraps. Keep it locked here for more details as they arise.

KAWS also announced his upcoming “BLACKOUT” exhibition, which will happen in London this October.

By Emily Engle via HYPEBEAST

Banksy’s Famous Brexit Mural Has Mysteriously Disappeared From the Side of a Building in a British Seaside Town

The abandoned building is owned by a property-owning family that previously butted heads with the world-famous street artist in court.

Kate Brown, August 27, 2019

Banksy's Dover mural. Photo by Glyn Kirk/AFP/Getty Images.

Banksy's Dover mural. Photo by Glyn Kirk/AFP/Getty Images.

A powerful statement on Brexit by Banksy has disappeared without a trace—or an explanation.

The three-story mural, which depicted a laborer chipping away at one of the yellow stars on a blue European Union flag, appeared in January in Dover, a port city on the English Channel that looks out onto continental Europe. It was installed near the ferry terminal in May 2017 and quickly became a melancholy symbol of what the country stood to lose from Brexit. 

Scaffolding was installed on the building last weekend and, on Monday, reports began circulating that the mural had been removed and covered with white paint. So far, there has been no comment or explanation from Banksy or the town of Dover. A representative for Banksy did not respond to an inquiry from artnet News, while a spokesperson for the city said they knew nothing about the mural’s fate.

One official who has been vocal about the work is Dover MP Charlie Elphicke. He said on Twitter that he was “very disappointed” by the disappearance of the “culturally iconic statement on our times.” He noted that the city had asked Historic England to place the piece under protection, but that they refused. “This is the result,” he said. “They should hang their heads in shame.”

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Elphicke continued that if the preservation body would agree to protect “the Abbey Road crossing and even a 1960s Bournemouth bus depot described as ‘hideous,’” then “they should have listed an iconic and culturally important piece of art like our Banksy.”

Some are now looking to the owners of the building, members of the Godden family, who own the Godden Gaming Organization and operate a property empire that extends across Folkestone, Thanet, as well as Dover, for an explanation. The now-scaffolded building—a former arcade in Dover—was due to be demolished before Banksy’s viral work showed up there in 2017. 

Curiously, the Brexit mural wasn’t the first brush Banksy has had with the family: the Goddens previously lost a High Court battle with the artist over permission to sell one of his murals on a property they owned in Folkestone. When that work, called Art Bufffirst appeared, the family told the press that they intended to remove or sell it for £1 million ($1.2 million). (The Goddens added that they would “look to benefit local charities with proceeds from any sale of the piece.”)

It was a weird twist of fate, then, when Banksy chose another Godden family building to create his Brexit mural. And since its unexplained removal yesterday, questions have been swirling on social media. Was the erasure accidental, or a carefully planned gesture by an artist who has a reputation for sparking a media frenzy? Or could the Dover removal be some kind of payback from the Goddens?

Banksy’s Brexit piece had also previously been vandalized with a small tag that said “the clash,” at which point Dover’s district council announcedplans to monitor the work with CCTV. But so far, no answers are forthcoming. 

“We’re disappointed to see that the Banksy mural appears to have been removed, recognizing that this unique artwork had become a popular tourist attraction in the town,” a Dover district council spokesman told artnet News. “The property, which is in a state of considerable disrepair, is privately owned, and the council was not involved in the current activity, and was not made aware of any plans for it to take place.”

Takashi Murakami Makes His First Foray Into Sneaker Production With $600 Kicks Inspired by a Legendary Anime Series

The new sneakers take cues from Mobile Suit Gundam and feature eight removable pouches.

Sarah Cascone, August 26, 2019

Takashi Murakami's new sneakers, the TZ BS-06s. The shoes are inspired by the Zakus from the anime  Mobile Suit Gundam . Photo courtesy of Takashi Murakami.

Takashi Murakami's new sneakers, the TZ BS-06s. The shoes are inspired by the Zakus from the anime Mobile Suit Gundam. Photo courtesy of Takashi Murakami.

Sneakerheads and anime fans, rejoice: contemporary-art star and fashion-world favorite Takashi Murakami has created his first pair of kicks, and they owe their look to some of Japan’s most revered robot heroes. Called the TZ BS-06s, the sneakers are available exclusively at the artist’s official online store, Tonari no Zingaro, for the eyebrow-arching price of ¥64,800 ($611).

“From conception to drawing sketches to selecting the collaborator and manufacturer, I’ve handled everything, start to finish, every step of the way,” the artist wrote of the new shoes on Instagram. “In the past I have collaborated with brands such as Issey Miyake, Louis Vuitton, and Vans at their requests and designed the surface patterns, packages, and wrappings, but I was never really involved in developing any products. This time, I truly got [to] do everything from scratch.”

Murakami felt compelled to delve deeper into the sneaker business after the unexpectedly positive reception he received from sneakerheads at the inaugural ComplexCon, the hybrid streetwear exhibition, music festival, and pop-culture event, back in 2016. He was shocked that so many passionate collectors from outside the art world recognized him on sight and expressed admiration for his work. Designing and producing the TZ BS-06 was a way to forge an even stronger connection with this audience.

After a clunky pair of Balenciaga sneakers sparked his imagination three years ago, Murakami decided a Japanese-flavored take on the oversize footwear would resemble the giant manned military robots from the popular 1980s anime series Mobile Suit Gundam and its many spin-offs. In particular, he had in mind the Zaku, the bulky, heavily weaponized “mechas” tasked with defending the Principality of Zeon in the original series.

The shoelaces and removable Porter bags by Porter Yoshida & Co. for Takashi Murakami’s new sneakers, the TZ BS-06s. Photo courtesy of Takashi Murakami.

The shoelaces and removable Porter bags by Porter Yoshida & Co. for Takashi Murakami’s new sneakers, the TZ BS-06s. Photo courtesy of Takashi Murakami.

While Murakami was working on the design of the TZ BS-06s, he got a call from an executive at Porter Yoshida & Co, Ltd. The classic Japanese brand is known for its rugged Porter bags, specifically the Tanker Helmet bagsinspired by US Air Force flight jackets. The brand asked Murakami to collaborate on a special Tanker bag in honor of the design’s 30th anniversary.

He agreed, but with a request of his own attached: Could the company create removable Porter bags for his new sneakers? Murakami had already been thinking that the nylon fabric used for flight jackets could capture the Zaku’s military aesthetic, and that some kind of pockets would reflect the mobile suit’s tank-like compartments. Miniature Porter bags would be a perfect fit.

JNTHED created this packaging illustration for Takashi Murakami’s new sneakers, the TZ BS-06s, based on the packaging of Japanese legend Kow Yakayama’s  SF3d series of model kits. Photo courtesy of Takashi Murakami.

JNTHED created this packaging illustration for Takashi Murakami’s new sneakers, the TZ BS-06s, based on the packaging of Japanese legend Kow Yakayama’s SF3dseries of model kits. Photo courtesy of Takashi Murakami.

The package design for the TZ BS-06s is a multi-layered love letter to the Japanese fanboy culture of the ’80s. Featuring a manga-style rendering of a Zaku mecha, the box is also an homage to Kow Yokoyama, whose Gundam-inspired series SF3d became famous partly for the distinctively gritty aesthetic on the exterior artwork of its popular robot-model kits. Done with Yokoyama’s blessing, the illustration is the work of JNTHED, who has collaborated with Murakami on his anime series Six Hearts Princess and CGI/live-action sci-fi film Jellyfish Eyes.

The new sneakers offset the dark greenish-gray of the Zaku mechas with white and orange accents. The design also features no less than eight removable Porter pouches, which sounds like either a great alternative to a purse, or a massive obstacle to navigating a crowded street without losing accessories to accidental contact.

How does Murakami feel about creating the cargo shorts of the footwear world, though?

“I’m thrilled to the core,” he wrote.

See more photos of the TZ BS-06s below.



Takashi Murakami’s new sneakers, the TZ BS-06s. The shoes are inspired by the Zaku from the anime  Mobile Suit Gundam . Photo courtesy of Takashi Murakami.

Takashi Murakami’s new sneakers, the TZ BS-06s. The shoes are inspired by the Zaku from the anime Mobile Suit Gundam. Photo courtesy of Takashi Murakami.

Takashi Murakami’s new sneakers, the TZ BS-06s. The shoes are inspired by the Zaku from the anime series  Mobile Suit Gundam  and feature removable Porter bags from Porter Yoshida & Co. Photo courtesy of Takashi Murakami.

Takashi Murakami’s new sneakers, the TZ BS-06s. The shoes are inspired by the Zaku from the anime series Mobile Suit Gundam and feature removable Porter bags from Porter Yoshida & Co. Photo courtesy of Takashi Murakami.

Takashi Murakami’s new sneakers, the TZ BS-06s. Photo courtesy of Takashi Murakami.

Takashi Murakami’s new sneakers, the TZ BS-06s. Photo courtesy of Takashi Murakami.

Takashi Murakami Has Covered Practically Every Square Inch of a New Hong Kong Art Center With His Colorful Work. See the Show Here

The exhibition includes very weird mannequins of the artist.

Kate Brown, August 22, 2019

Takashi Murkamai at "Murakami versus Murakami" at Tai Kwun. Photograph: Alex Maeland.

Takashi Murkamai at "Murakami versus Murakami" at Tai Kwun. Photograph: Alex Maeland.

Takashi Murakami‘s tripped-out universe has touched down in Hong Kong.

The 57-year-old artist’s mix of fashion, graphic art, cosplay, and graffiti is spread across every crevice of the three floors of the new Tai Kwun Contemporary. The show, titled “Murakami versus Murakami,” leaves no small part of his career unexplored and no surface of the exhibition space untouched as it examines the different aspects of the Murakami brand.

The show is on view through September 1 in the swank new institution, housed in a former Central Police Station complex, that was redesigned by Herzog & de Meuron at the cost of HK$3.8 billion. The center officially opened last May as non-collecting, non-profit organization modeled on Europe’s kunsthalles.

“Tobias [Berger] requested I make chaos, Murakami says in a preview video for the exhibition, referring to the co-curator and the head of arts at Tai Kwun. Indeed, the show is anchored in Murakami’s maximal aesthetic and his carefully controlled pandemonium of colors, shapes, and hyper-intense layering. Berger suggests that it is the most ambitious solo show by a contemporary artist to take place in Hong Kong.

Installation view, which includes  The Birth Cry of a Universe  (center right), (2005–19). © Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved. Photo: Kitmin Lee.

Installation view, which includes The Birth Cry of a Universe (center right), (2005–19). © Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved. Photo: Kitmin Lee.

The show, which presents some 60 paintings and sculptures, includes gold and white ensō paintings, which reference a Zen Buddhist painting practice, that are hung in a room painted entirely gold. Outside, there are hundreds of pairs of blue slippers, waiting for visitors to step into before they can enter. At the opening in June, the only person who could walk in his own shoes was Murakami, who had silver footwear that were wiped down beforehand.

Elsewhere, the artist’s sci-fi scenographic paintings and drawings tower over viewers. Yet the show does not stop there. Pieces from the artist’s personal collection are also included, as well as his zanny costume designs, which are draped over mannequins made in his likeness. Basically, it is a room full of Murakamis in glass boxes who look like they’re shouting at you.

“Murakami versus Murakami” is on view through September 1 at the Tai Kwun Center for Heritage and Arts, located at 10 Hollywood Rd, Central in Hong Kong. 

Installation view of “Murakami versus Murakami.” © Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved. Photo: Kitmin Lee.

Installation view of “Murakami versus Murakami.” © Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved. Photo: Kitmin Lee.

Installation view of “Murakami versus Murakami.” © Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved. Photo: Kitmin Lee.

Installation view of “Murakami versus Murakami.” © Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved. Photo: Kitmin Lee.

Installation view of “Murakami versus Murakami.” © Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved. Photo: Kitmin Lee.

Installation view of “Murakami versus Murakami.” © Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved. Photo: Kitmin Lee.

Installation view of “Murakami versus Murakami.” © Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved. Photo: Kitmin Lee.

Installation view of “Murakami versus Murakami.” © Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved. Photo: Kitmin Lee.

Installation view of “Murakami versus Murakami.” © Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved. Photo: Kitmin Lee.

Installation view of “Murakami versus Murakami.” © Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved. Photo: Kitmin Lee.

Installation view of “Murakami versus Murakami.” © Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved. Photo: Kitmin Lee.

Installation view of “Murakami versus Murakami.” © Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved. Photo: Kitmin Lee.

Installation view of “Murakami versus Murakami.” © Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved. Photo: Kitmin Lee.

Installation view of “Murakami versus Murakami.” © Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved. Photo: Kitmin Lee.

Installation view of “Murakami versus Murakami.” © Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved. Photo: Kitmin Lee.

Installation view of “Murakami versus Murakami.” © Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved. Photo: Kitmin Lee.

Installation view of “Murakami versus Murakami.” © Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved. Photo: Kitmin Lee.

Installation view of “Murakami versus Murakami.” © Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved. Photo: Kitmin Lee.

Installation view of “Murakami versus Murakami.” © Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved. Photo: Kitmin Lee.

Installation view of “Murakami versus Murakami.” © Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved. Photo: Kitmin Lee.

6 Reasons to Take KAWS Seriously

Installation view of KAWS,  ALONG THE WAY , 2013, in "KAWS: ALONG THE WAY," at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, 2019. Photo by Jonty Wilde (@jontywilde on social). Courtesy of Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit.

Installation view of KAWS, ALONG THE WAY, 2013, in "KAWS: ALONG THE WAY," at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, 2019. Photo by Jonty Wilde (@jontywilde on social). Courtesy of Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit.

The art world always seems to need a punching bag. Often, it’s an artist who is both a popular favorite and a market darling; someone whose work is so rabidly beloved by the masses that they can’t possibly be serious. Brian Donnelly, a.k.a. KAWS, might be the most prominent recent example of this phenomena.

KAWS is a global star—2.3 million Instagram followers and counting—who so many establishment critics talk of with disdain, if they talk about him at all. Witness The Art Newspaper, for instance, which sets the tone by lamenting the “sheer conceptual bankruptcy” of KAWS. “Marcel Duchamp, Andy Warhol, Sherrie Levine, Sarah Lucas. These are the artists who waged war on elitist, bourgeois models of aesthetic and conceptual value,” the author writes, before adding that KAWS “does not belong to this lineage”—as if that were ever his chief ambition.

Installation view of KAWS,  BORN TO BLEND,  2013, and  BLUSH,  2012, at the Modern Museum of Fort Worth, 2016. Photo by Matt Hawthorne. Courtesy of the artist.

Installation view of KAWS, BORN TO BLEND, 2013, and BLUSH, 2012, at the Modern Museum of Fort Worth, 2016. Photo by Matt Hawthorne. Courtesy of the artist.

KAWS has had a long and winding career—one that began as a street artist, throwing up tags and culture-jamming phone booth advertisements in New York with his own cartoonish iconography. His first solo show was at the Parisian boutique, Colette; he’s now represented by Skarstedt Gallery in New York, a tony Upper East Side establishment that works with artists like David Salle and Christopher Wool. KAWS has always straddled all worlds—producing collectible toys; collaborating with Uniqlo on clothes that set off mass hysteria; making auction news; and stealing the show at Frieze London.

It’s possible that, 50 years from now, art history will look back on KAWS as someone who further troubled the line between art and commerce in intriguing ways. At the same time, this isn’t what makes him truly interesting, and to discard his entire output as frivolous—so many silly cartoons with X’ed out eyes, signifying nothing—is just lazy. Below, a few reasons to take KAWS seriously—not as a savvy entrepreneur or an icon of hypebeast culture, but as an artist, plain and simple.

His largest-scale sculptures are a new kind of Land Art

His largest-scale sculptures are a new kind of Land Art

Eugenie Tsai, a curator of contemporary art at the Brooklyn Museum, oversaw “KAWS: ‘Along the Way,’” a KAWS survey that opened at the institution in 2015. More recently, she was thrilled by KAWS’s “KAWS: Holiday” project, for which the artist installed a 37-meter sculpture of one of his “Companion” figures in spots around the world.

“Social media enabled me to observe the gigantic sculpture, slumbering at the foot of Mt. Fuji through rain and shine, through day and night. Throughout it all, the mountain seemed to shrink,” Tsai said. “KAWS uses scale to shift and rearrange our perception of our immediate, outdoor surroundings, in a way that’s comparable to what some of the artists making Earthworks in the 1960s were doing.” Whereas Land artists like Michael Heizer and Robert Smithson relied on documentation in magazines to publicize their remote projects, Tsai said, KAWS is able to use platforms like Instagram, ensuring that millions of strangers can virtually experience his ambitious interventions.

The sculptures also have an unexpected emotional range. “KAWS: Alone Again,” a recent KAWS exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD), included five sculptural figures posed around the semi-darkened exhibition space. The works “are rooted in art history, aware of the past,” said MOCAD executive director Elysia Borowy-Reeder, who curated the show. “There’s a lot of melancholy in the figures. You do feel the sense of loss, of being alone, when you look at them.”



Read Full Article Here

Generation XX: How Kaws Short-Circuited the Art World

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Brian Donnelly, a.k.a. KAWS, short-circuited the fine-art galleries and auction houses when his playful paintings and cartoon-inspired cast of recurring characters (known by their signature ‘XX’ eyes) led to record-breaking sales. Now his outsize success may forever alter the perceived legitimacy of artists who came up honing their skills on the streets.

BY ARTY NELSON

PHOTOGRAPHY BY DAVID BRANDON GREETING

August 5, 2019

PHOTOGRAPHS BY DAVID BRANDON GREETING

I'm slaloming a mess of titans. To be more precise, I'm standing inside the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit in the final moments before Alone Again, a new exhibition by the artist KAWS, opens for a crowd of VIPs.

Every which way I turn, I find myself unwittingly confronted by a tweaked-out member of KAWS's odd mob of massive carved wooden sculptures. The most common presence is the artist's iconic character Companion. (Imagine a Mickey Mouse-adjacent creature with a skull-like face, cauliflower-esque four-chambered ears, and KAWS's signature “XX” eyes.) And yet, despite their alien nature, the sculptures each exude familiar emotions.

Take SMALL LIE, for example: The eight-foot figure stands slump-shouldered, knees knocked, eyes glued to the ground. There's incredible pathos. Or AT THIS TIME, wherein Companion stands almost nine feet tall, back arched with hands cupped over eyes, conveying a kind of muted shock and disbelief. Not far away is FINAL DAYS, in which Companion is on the move, stepping one foot in front of the other, arms outstretched, doing a low-key Frankenstein strut. Given the fact that all the pieces are taller than me, the overall effect of standing amid the bizarre cluster is that of being fully submerged within a twisted Venn diagram of awkward human feelings.

Running along the back of the room is a 62-foot-long, 12-foot-high site-specific wall painting that fills the cavernous space with brightly vibrating energy. It is adorned with a trio of 6-foot-high-by-10-foot-long canvases. Each one is a teeming tangle of abstracted tentacle-like shapes over a background more reminiscent of the artist's earlier cartoon-inspired geometric planes. The synergy of all three elements comes together to elicit a sensation of being both transported and slightly held against my will in a kind of psychedelic Land of the Lost.

“Clearly there are elements of color field. There's amazing line work. And, of course, abstraction,” says MOCAD executive director and chief curator Elysia Borowy-Reeder, walking alongside me. “These paintings are really monumental.”

And this is a monumental show for MOCAD as well, at a moment when the appetite for KAWS worldwide is nothing short of rabid. To list just a few notable recent KAWS headlines: There was his 121-foot-long inflatable sculpture that floated in Victoria Harbour during Art Basel Hong Kong in March; a 33-foot-tall version of his newest character, BFF, made out of pink flowers, as the centerpiece of Dior's show at Paris Fashion Week; a line of clothing for Uniqlo that sparked Black Friday-style chaos and actual violence; and a record-setting $14.7 million auction of THE KAWS ALBUM—a 40-inch-by-40-inch painting, and homage within an homage, that uses the artist's “Kimpsons” motif to reimagine a Simpsons version of the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover. Any of these might have been a crowning achievement to an artist's career. For KAWS, it just amounts to what he did this past year.

And yet, sitting with KAWS—a.k.a. Brian Donnelly—the next day in Detroit, I was hard-pressed to glean, based on his understated demeanor, the staggering amounts of high-profile work he is producing and the roster of side projects he is currently involved in. This commitment to spreading oneself around is a sea change in the contemporary-art world. Projects of the sort KAWS takes on—a line of clothing, a product redesign—that were once considered taboo, or even career killers, for an artist on the hunt for a serious career are now understood to be part of the contemporary artist's purview. They are not just “acceptable” side hustles, but downright sexy additions to the portfolio. To someone like Borowy-Reeder, whose extensive and varied museum career threading through Raleigh, Chicago, Milwaukee, Los Angeles, and now Detroit has afforded her the POV of a kind of enriched outsider, the prospects of what a KAWS brings to the landscape of contemporary art is a welcome sign of the changing times. “The palace gates might still be somewhat closed—and there's a moat,” she says. “But I think it was Virgil Abloh who said, ‘How many collaborations is too many?’ He's mixing street and ready-to-wear fashion and killing it. And I hope more people get inspired by that model or lens of freedom, working on the outside, pushing in. With people like KAWS and Abloh, things could get really exciting.”

When KAWS was coming up in the late '90s, he was met with resistance by galleries and managed to book scant few shows. Despite the demonstrated success of “street artist” forebears like Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring, KAWS—who'd made a name for himself initially with graffiti-style tags and urban installations—struggled to get past labels like “too street” or “too illustrative” or “too commercial.” He was, for better or worse, relegated to success outside the gallery. But in the past decade, as the line between high and low in art has blended considerably and the sorts of side endeavors that KAWS has readily embraced since jump have become par for the course, KAWS's approach to being a contemporary artist has dovetailed seamlessly with what the moment craves most.

In Detroit, I ask KAWS if he approaches any of his paintings, installations, or collaborations differently, if maybe there is an inherent hierarchy based upon scale or degree of cultural significance.

“For me,” he says, looking at me like I'm speaking Sanskrit, “it's all the same thing—there's no difference between any of the projects I do.”

And that right there is probably what has made him, gradually and then suddenly, one of the best-known artists of his generation.

KAWS creates original paints with Golden, unique to only his work, on display here at his studio in Brooklyn.

It wasn't always this way. Back in 2003, when I first met KAWS—I was meant to write a catalog essay for a gallery show in Los Angeles that never happened—he was a working artist, arguably successful by most metrics but somewhat derisively labeled a “street artist” while, ironically, finding his interest in doing street works on the wane.

“The vibe in New York got weird post-9/11,” he tells me now. “In 2002 you weren't trying to break into bus shelters. Everybody was on edge and alert. ‘Who is this guy with a wrench taking apart this phone booth?’ ”

Leaving behind street work was a significant departure. KAWS had elicited attention in the early '90s throwing up traditional graffiti-style “KAWS” tags—a name that simply struck Donnelly as visually appealing; it has no hidden meaning—on billboards around Jersey City. “You're totally thinking how to have a visual impact,” he says. “And making stuff that's a quick read. You're competing against thousands of kids, and you learn from people who have done it before you.” There were inherently elevated stakes developing one's practice in the streets: You had to stand out against everything else in the cityscape.

After barely graduating high school, Donnelly cobbled together a portfolio and eventually gained entrance to the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan and, upon graduation, secured entry-level work doing illustrations for an animation company. It was at this point, in response to the change in his everyday terrain, that Donnelly's interests shifted. He had a new canvas, so to speak. “In Jersey City there were billboards everywhere, so that's what I painted on,” he says. “But once I got to the city, it became more about bus shelters and phone booths.”

More specifically, it became about the artist's “interruptions”—sly subversions of ads for hot brands like Calvin Klein or Guess, to which the artist festooned his Bendy character, a mischievous serpentine being he'd entwine around a Kate Moss or Christy Turlington. Because of their placement in downtown NYC and SoHo, the works were clocked by his growing number of fans—and were often stolen for resale. Eventually, KAWS began to sour on the operation: “When I first started doing the interruptions, they'd last like two months. At the time, I was working as an illustrator for Jumbo Pictures, and I'd mostly install them along my trail to work. But it got to the point where the pieces would last for like a half day. I'd go back to document them, and there would just be a pile of glass on the ground where I'd just installed the piece. I was like, ‘What's the point? They're just ending up on eBay or whatever.’ ”

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The upside to the eBay heat was that the works traveled far and wide. Among the particularly fervent early admirers was an influential cadre of designers and tastemakers in Japan, including Nigo of A Bathing Ape, Hikaru Iwanaga of Bounty Hunter, Jun Takahashi of Undercover, and Medicom's Akashi “Ryu” Tatsuhiko. Donnelly, in turn, made frequent sojourns to their shores, where he developed an unlikely creative outlet. In collaboration with Bounty Hunter and Hectic, KAWS designed his first-edition “toy” in 1999. The first release, an eight-inch-tall version of the aforementioned Companion, which originally sold for $99, was followed by the release of the artist's next character, Accomplice, a slightly out-of-shape-looking Pink Panther doppelgänger with a Companion skull-head and a set of pert bunny ears. As the figures began reselling for thousands, their massive popularity began to lay the groundwork for the artist's zealous fan base.

Meanwhile, KAWS was making his earliest inroads into the gallery world. First, in 1999, with tastemaker extraordinaire Sarah Andelman at her seminal Paris boutique, Colette, and then at Parco Gallery in Tokyo. The 2001 Parco Gallery show featured two bodies of work. The first included black-and-white panels derived by abstracting imagery sampled from Chum, another character. The second was a series of colorful “landscape paintings,” which looked like tripped-out Ellsworth Kellys made from vast swaths of electric color and shards of Simpsons characters' heads. At the time, KAWS's decision to work in Japan was a pragmatic one, based on demand and the openness to his art there. But he recalls coming up against some wariness back home: “People were like, ‘Why are you doing all this stuff in Japan that nobody sees?’ I was going where the work and opportunity was. And when the energy started moving over that way [Asia], I was like 10 years in already.”

But the gallery success remained somewhat muted—there just wasn't the same sort of interest and energy as KAWS found in his other pursuits. In 2006, KAWS's established relationship with Medicom proved fortuitous once again when he partnered with the brand on his very own retail space in Tokyo, OriginalFake, which showcased his toys and OriginalFake streetwear. “Instead of playing the gallery game,” says Damon Way, who cofounded DC Shoes and approached KAWS about designing a sneaker at a time when artist-sneaker collabs were pretty much nonexistent, “he had all these sorts of proxies of influencers of culture in Japan that gave him so much lift and allowed him to avoid it.”

Having a brick-and-mortar operation gave KAWS his very own laboratory to beta-test ideas that struck his fancy. “I started OriginalFake because, in 2006, I decided not to care about galleries at all, not to give a shit, let the chips fall where they may,” he says, thinking back on his off-road adventure into the unconventional. “I was doing a completely commercial venture, a brand, a store. I designed everything, which was a lot of work, but when you work in all these different ways, you meet people, and that's ultimately what creates other opportunities, and so, ironically, that's when things started opening up.”

KAWS often leaves dots of color in working designs so that he can move between dozens of works at once without losing his place—a sort of paint-by-numbers.

KAWS often leaves dots of color in working designs so that he can move between dozens of works at once without losing his place—a sort of paint-by-numbers.

7 Things You Should Know About Banksy; The UK's Favourite Artist

17 Jul 2019 Amalia Papaioannou

It's no secret that the British love Banksy - and it's now official that the artist is indeed the Nation's favourite in a new poll released just this month. Banksy has claimed the title of Britain's favourite artist of all time beating artists such as Da Vinci, Van Gogh and Monet. In light of this news, we thought we'd gather 7 facts you should know about the elusive artist.

In a new poll conducted by YourGov, Banksy has been crowned Britain's favourite painter of all time. Certainly not a small tittle. The artist won Britain's heart over greats such as Da Vinci or Van Gogh. In light of this new honour for the anonymous artists we've gathered some interesting facts and trivia you should know about the nation's favourite artist. 

"If you want to say something and have people listen then you have to wear a mask"

-Banksy

 

Here's 7 Things You Should Know About Banksy...

 

1. Auction Record

The highest price ever achieved at auction for a Banksy artwork is $1.870.000 for 'Keep it Spotless' at Sotheby's. The piece was  conceived in collaboration with another major British artist, Damian Hirst, featuring his iconic spot paintings. This result set a new record not only for Banksy but Street Art.

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Keep it Spotless by Banksy and Damian Hirst 

2. A Stunt Involving Fake Money Got Him in The British Museum

Banksy created the ultimate stunt at London's famous Notting Hill Carnival, where thousands of 'Di-Faced Tenners' were thrown into the crowd, which many attendees then tried to spend in local shops. Banksy produced the banknote in 2004, later revealing he printed £1m worth of them. As well as showing the late Princess Diana’s face instead of the Queen’s, the note was altered to read “Banksy of England” and the motto: “I promise to pay the bearer on demand the ultimate price.” Just last year, the fake banknote joined the historic collection of The British Museum. 

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Di-faced Tenner featuring Lady Di

3. He has created an opening sequence for The Simpsons

In 2010 the artist created the storyboards for the famous show's intro. The sequence is said to have been one of the most closely guarded secrets in US television and was quite controversial when it aired. You can watch it below:  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sSU1IJk70i4

4. He has been nominated for an Oscar

His 2010 documentary film 'Exit Through the Gift Shop' was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. The film also grossed $5,308,618 at the box office and featured fellow street-artists such as Shepard Fairey, Invader and Mr. Brainwash.

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Exit Through the Gift Shop, vandalised oil painting, Banksy. 

5. He's Made His Own Amusement Park 

In 2015, in the eery, abandoned lido of Weston Super Mare, Banksy created his own apocalyptic style Disneyland-esque theme park called 'Dismaland'. The project included works by Banksy as well as 58 different artists he selected, and was far from a dreamland. Visitors were invited to come "eat cold chips to the sound of crying children" at what the artist referred to as "a family theme park unsuitable for children." Dismaland was open for about a month during the summer of 2015, selling 4,000 tickets per day for £3 each. To learn more about Dismaland, and Hang-Up's visit, click here.   

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One of Banksy's pieces on display at Dismaland depicting a paparazzi swarmed wreckage of Cinderella's coach crash.

 

6. ...And His Own Hotel

A few years later, in 2017, the artist took on an even bigger project opening a hotel in Palestine! The Walled Off Hotel - a hotel overlooking the Israeli West Bank Wall aimed to bring tourism to Palestine and create a conversation around the conflict between Israel and Palestine, which Banksy was always very vocal about. Banksy's Hotel contains rooms curated by different artists, an art gallery and hosts music and art events promoting local artists whilst "offer(ing) the worst view in the world!" Banksy described it as a "a three-storey cure for fanaticism, with limited car parking”... Hang-Up again had the pleasure of visiting, to read more about it all click here.

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A Banksy mural in one of The Walled-Off Hotel's 9 guest rooms  

7. One of His Artwork Was Once Sold with A House Attached

Back in 2007, when a couple was selling their home which featured an early Banksy mural on it, they quickly realised most of the potential buyers were planning to paint over the artwork. In order to protect the piece from being covered by the house's new owners, they decided to take it to Sotheby's Auction House instead. The piece was featured in the sale as "a mural with a house attached" and sold for £102,000!

Banksy | Pulp Fiction - Unsigned, available now

Banksy | Pulp Fiction - Unsigned, available now

L'ATLAS Designs Logo for FENTY, New Fashion Label from Rihanna and LVMH

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PARIS, France — After months of hype, LVMH and Rihanna’s fashion venture is finally materialising. The superstar, whose full name is Robyn Rihanna Fenty, is set to present her first collection for the new label, which will be branded Fenty, later this month in Paris. The offering will span ready-to-wear and accessories, including shoes, sunglasses and jewellery. Rihanna herself will shoot some of the visual assets to accompany the launch of the label, BoF has learned.

“Designing a line like this with LVMH is an incredibly special moment for us. Mr Arnault has given me a unique opportunity to develop a fashion house in the luxury sector, with no artistic limits," said Rihanna, in a statement, referring to LVMH Chairman and Chief Executive Bernard Arnault. "I couldn’t imagine a better partner both creatively and business-wise, and I’m ready for the world to see what we have built together."

Rihanna's Fenty Beauty line, launched in partnership with LVMH beauty incubator Kendo, generated €500 million in its first full year in operation, underscoring the power of the Barbadian singer.

Fenty is the first fashion brand launched from scratch by LVMH since Christian Lacroix was founded in 1987. Rihanna is the first woman to create an original brand at LVMH and the first woman of colour at the top of an LVMH maison.

“Everybody knows Rihanna as a wonderful singer, but through our partnership at Fenty Beauty, I discovered a true entrepreneur, a real CEO and a terrific leader. She naturally finds her full place within LVMH," said Arnault. "To support Rihanna to start up the Fenty Maison, we have built a talented and multicultural team supported by the group resources. I am proud that LVMH is leading this venture and wish it will be a great success."

As first reported by BoF, Rihanna is a 49.99 percent shareholder in Project Loud France, the official name of the company that owns the new label, via her company Denim UK Holdings. (Her attorney Ed Shapiro and Jay Brown, chief executive of her music label Roc Nation, are the directors of Denim UK Holdings.)

Rihanna has committed nearly €30 million of “in-kind” contributions to the venture — meaning she’s offering up €30 million worth of her time, her name and what she represents — while LVMH has put up €30 million in cash.

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Fenty’s head office is located in the building occupied by the LVMH Fashion Group, which is comprised of the conglomerate’s smaller fashion labels, including Celine, Givenchy and Loewe, and led by Sidney Toledano.

However, the label will be supported by LVMH veterans including longtime Louis Vuitton executive Véronique Gebel, who will report to Project Loud’s President and LVMH’s Chief Strategy Officer Jean-Baptiste Voisin.

While Fenty may be a departure from LVMH's typical playbook, which is rooted in reviving heritage brands, Rihanna’s track record with the company is a clear indicator that her global influence, driven, in part, by her message of diversity and inclusion, may be worth doubling down on.

With more than 70 million followers on Instagram, the entertainer has managed to rewrite at least some of the rules of the beauty industry by making 40 shades of foundation the minimum requirement. She has also shifted the conversation in lingerie with the launch of Savage x Fenty, a size-inclusive line produced in partnership with El Segundo, Calif.-based TechStyle Fashion Group, the company behind Kate Hudson’s Fabletics activewear label. (Her collection with Puma, at the time owned by rival luxury group Kering, ended in the Spring of 2018.)

“[LVMH] has one of the best platforms in the world in terms of design, marketing, distribution, supply chain,” luxury analyst Mario Ortelli told BoF in February. “That’s why they’ll make the bet. Whether it succeeds will depend on execution.”

Jeff Koons' 'Rabbit' Fetches $91 Million, Auction Record For Work By A Living Artist

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A 3-foot-tall silver bunny just set an art world record. Rabbit, by the playful and controversial artist Jeff Koons, sold for more than $91 million at Christie's Auction House — the most for work by a living artist at auction.

Robert Mnuchin, an art dealer and the father of the Treasury secretary, had the winning bid on behalf of a client

The stainless steel sculpture is a faceless space bunny, a balloon that's not a balloon. The piece was one of 11 works that were offered from the collection of magazine publisher S.I. Newhouse, the longtime chairman of Condé Nast who died in 2017

"The work is considered the holy grail of Koons works among certain collecting circles, and the bunny's allure was burnished by the fact that Newhouse was its longtime owner," Artnet writes. "It also received an extraordinary pre-sale display at Christie's with a custom-built room that perched the rabbit on a pedestal surrounded by lighting mimicking a James Turrell installation."

In its lot essay, Christie's described Rabbit as melding "a Minimalist sheen with a naïve sense of play":

"It is crisp and cool in its appearance, yet taps into the visual language of childhood, of all that is pure and innocent. Its lack of facial features renders it wholly inscrutable, but the forms themselves evoke fun and frivolity, an effect heightened by the crimps and dimples that have been translated into the stainless steel from which it has been made. ... The steel surface of the titular bunny initially appears smooth and balloon-like, the forms reduced to some abstract, Platonic ideal."

The sculpture was cast in 1986 in an edition of just three, plus an artist's proof. The one sold Wednesday was the last one in private hands, with the others in the collections of the Broad Art Foundation in Los Angeles, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago and the National Museum of Qatar.

The sculpture has become something of a cultural icon. Case in point: Rabbit was turned back into a balloon to float above Manhattan in the 2007 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

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With the sale, Koons retakes the mantle of most expensive living artist. He had lost it the title to David Hockney, whose 1972 painting Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) sold at Christie's last year for $90.3 million. Previously, Koons held the distinction when his orange Balloon Dog sold for $58.4 million in 2013.

$14.7 M. KAWS Painting Smashes Auction Record in Hong Kong

The auction world’s exclusive eight-figure club has a new member.

On Monday night at Sotheby’s in Hong Kong, a painting by the artist KAWS (aka the New Jersey–born Brian Donnelly) sold for a staggering 115.9 million HKD, or about $14.7 million in U.S. dollars, a new auction record for the artist. The result came at Sotheby’s “NIGOLDENEYE® Vol. 1” sale, with The Kaws Album (2005) soaring past its estimate of 6,000,000—8,000,000 HKD ($760,000–$1 million) to that lofty finish.

The record-shattering piece, which is a riff on the cover art for the Beatles album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club (1967), easily eclipsed KAWS’s previous record of $2.7 million, which was set last November in New York at Phillips in its 20th-century evening sale by Untitled (Fatal Group), 2004, a work that presents the artist’s take on the classic Fat Albert cartoon.

In this sale, Sotheby’s was offering pieces from the collection of the streetwear impresario Nigo, who styles his name with the registered trademark (as seen in the name of the auction). It grossed a total of nearly $220 million HKD, or $28 million, across 33 lots, meaning that record-setting painting accounted for about half of the haul.

Aside from collecting, Nigo is the creator of the streetwear line A Bathing Ape and co-founder of the clothing label Billionaire Boys Club with the musician Pharrell, and the pieces he was selling displayed a vigorous cross-pollination between art and streetwear: five of the lots were sneakers, four of which were BAPE in collaboration with KAWS. Two lots of two pairs of shoes went for 125,000 HKD, or $15,900, which comes out to about $7,950 a pair (or $3,975 per shoe).

The sale was almost entirely comprised of work by KAWS. Other top lots from the auction were three riffs on The Simpsons by the artist, all from 2003: Untitled (Kimpsons), which sold for 21.2 million HKD, or $2.7 million; Untitled (Kimpsons #3), for $20.5 million HKD ($2.6 million), and Kimpsons Series, for $7.4 million HKD ($940,000).

KAWS has had quite a time in Hong Kong over the past week, as the Art Basel fair ran in the city. On March 25, the Hong Kong Contemporary Art Foundation opened a survey exhibition, “Along The Way,” organized by the storied Italian curator Germano Celant, and for a short time, a giant inflatable of his character “Companion” was floating in Victoria Harbor before it was taken down two days early due to weather conditions.

BY Annie Armstrong

© 2019 ARTNEWS MEDIA, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. ARTNEWS® IS REGISTERED IN THE U.S. PATENT AND TRADEMARK OFFICE.

10 things to know about KAWS

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The artist is taking the art world by storm — his giant inflatables have graced a lake in Seoul and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, his characters feature on T-shirts, and his paintings sell for seven-figure sums at auction

1 KAWS is not his real name

Brian Donnelly (b. 1974) studied illustration at the School of Visual Arts in New York. Before he achieved success as an artist he worked as a background painter on animated series such as Disney’s 101 Dalmations, and cult shows Daria  and Doug

2 He started out as a graffiti artist

From an early age Donnelly was known for marking buildings in New Jersey and Manhattan with ‘KAWS’, a tag he chose because he liked the way the letters looked together. He soon moved on from this simple tag, however, and developed a unique style that involved adding cartoon-like figures to bus-shelter advertisements.

Later, he would replicate these early works of ‘subvertising’ in a series of screenprint lithographs. These included a mock Calvin Klein ad, featuring supermodel Christy Turlington being embraced by a green figure.

From an early age Donnelly was known for marking buildings in New Jersey and Manhattan with ‘KAWS’, a tag he chose because he liked the way the letters looked together. He soon moved on from this simple tag, however, and developed a unique style that involved adding cartoon-like figures to bus-shelter advertisements.

Later, he would replicate these early works of ‘subvertising’ in a series of screenprint lithographs. These included a mock Calvin Klein ad, featuring supermodel Christy Turlington being embraced by a green figure.

His origins in graffiti brought his work to a diverse audience, many of whom had nothing to do with the art world. Unlike most artists, KAWS did not start out with a gallery; he was fully aware of the benefits of showing his work in the street and mass-producing pieces in order to build a following. This following became so big that it attracted the attention of collectors and critics.

Speaking of his early days as a graffiti artist, Donnelly said, ‘When I was doing graffiti, my whole thought was, “I just want to exist.” I want to exist with this visual language in the world… It meant nothing to me to make paintings if I wasn’t reaching people.’

3 KAWS made his name with toys

In 1999 KAWS visited Japan after being approached by Bounty Hunter, the cult toy and streetwear brand. He would go on to create his first toy, ‘COMPANION’.

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Produced in an edition of 500, the toys sold out almost immediately, and COMPANION became a recurring figure in KAWS’ work.

4 He’s having a moment

In March 2019, a 121-foot-long inflatable version of KAWS’ COMPANION  is set to be installed in Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour during Art Basel. Anchored by a 40-ton weight, versions of the piece — dubbed KAWS: HOLIDAY — were previously on view in Seoul and Taipei, and mark the latest step in the artist’s rise to fame over recent years.

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Although KAWS was successful in the 2000s, the 2019 Artnet Intelligence Report reports that in 2017 his average sale price almost doubled, from $42,272 to $82,063. In November 2018, five KAWS pieces sold for more than $1 million, and across the year his work realised over $33.8 million at auction.

5 He’s big on Instagram

KAWS’ success on social media has been a big factor in his surge to the forefront of the contemporary art world. At the time of writing, more than 900,000 posts bearing the hashtag #kaws had been posted on Instagram, compared to 300,000 for Jeff Koons and 192,000 for Damien Hirst. Specialists have speculated that this could partly be down to the fact that his bright, Pop-art style reproduces faithfully online, but this popularity can also be attributed to KAWS’ origins as a street artist.

6 KAWS and the comparisons to Basquiat and Haring

Described by curator and art historian Michael Auping as ‘[Clement] Greenberg’s worst nightmare’, KAWS is seen as the enfant terrible of the New York art world. Many have compared him to Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring, whose own inimitable styles started out on the street, as well as Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons, who both had an instinctive understanding of the possibilities of art in the age of mechanical reproduction.

KAWS has name-checked his influences, which vary from Claes Oldenburg and Tom Wesselman to Takashi Murakami, the latter in terms of what the artist describes as ‘acceptance and crossover projects’.

7 He’s known for appropriating beloved characters

‘No cartoon is safe from being consumed and turned into KAWS,’ says Christie’s associate specialist Noah Davis. The artist is known for subverting iconic cartoon heroes and in doing so he demonstrates his interest in the characters’ universal cultural value, reinforcing the idea that he makes no distinction between concepts of ‘high’ and ‘low’ art.

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8 He once designed a float for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

In 2012 a KAWS COMPANION  balloon was seen floating down the streets of Manhattan as part of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, its XX eyes covered by large gloved hands. Its appearance alongside characters as Mickey Mouse and Sonic the Hedgehog provided further proof of KAWS’ ability to transform art into a spectacle for mass consumption.

9 KAWS and collaboration

After successfully launching his own fashion label, Original Fake, in the early 2000s, KAWS began working with a number of cult streetwear labels, including Bathing Ape and Supreme. In 2008 he designed the cover for Kanye West’s much feted album 808s & Heartbreak, and more recently he has developed his own pair of Nike Air Jordans.

In 2019, Paris Fashion Week saw Dior designer Kim Jones debut his Spring/Summer 2019 collection with a KAWS interpretation of the fashion house’s iconic bee design, set against the backdrop of a 33-ft tall pink flower sculpture of KAWS’s ‘BFF’ character, reproduced as an editioned toy in a mini Dior suit.

KAWS has also collaborated with the Campana brothers on a range of furniture covered in plush toys, which debuted at Art Basel Miami and was immediately snapped up by Travis Scott and Kylie Jenner.

10 His work sells for as little as $15 and as much as $2.4 million

KAWS has teamed up with NIGO, originally of Bathing Ape fame and now creative director of Uniqlo’s LifeWear UT line. His current collection with the Japanese brand sees him redrawing beloved Sesame Street characters on a collection of T-shirts, sweatshirts, hoodies and toys. All priced under $50, the pieces feature the tagline, ‘You’re never too old for the street’.

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In contrast, last November’s Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale  at Christie’s in New York saw KAWS’ 2012 painting, CHUM (KCB7), sell for $2,412,500, almost five times its high estimate.

Banksy infiltrates prestigious art show in Venice

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SOURCE: ctvnews.ca

The Venice Biennale art show is one of the most prestigious in the world, and this year they had an unauthorized entry show up – legendary British street artist, and part myth, Banksy.

“Setting out my stall at the Venice Biennale,” Banksy wrote on Instagram. “Despite being the largest and most prestigious art event in the world, for some reason I’ve never been invited.”

The auction record for the street artist Invader was broken at Artcurial.

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SOURCE: artsy.net

A large-scale mosaic work by the French street artist Invader zapped his previous auction record on Sunday, when it sold for €356,200 (about $398,800) in Artcurial’s sale of urban and Pop art in Paris. The record-setting work, Vienna (2008), features a hypnotic arrangement of black and blue outlines emanating from one of the artist’s trademark pixelated aliens from the vintage videogame Space Invader. The work is mounted on two panels and spans more than seven feet wide. It sold right around its high estimate of €350,000 ($391,800), surpassing Invader’s previous auction record of $HK 2.68 million ($346,800) set at Christie’s Hong Kong in 2015. Artcurial noted that Vienna’s buyer is a foreign (i.e. not French) collector, but would not give any other information.