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.”

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Generation XX: How Kaws Short-Circuited the Art World


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.



August 5, 2019


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.’ ”


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"



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.


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. 


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:  


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.


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.   


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.


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


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.


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

Screen Shot 2019-06-29 at 1.54.28 PM.png

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.

Screen Shot 2019-06-29 at 1.55.56 PM.png

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


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’.

Screen Shot 2019-06-29 at 1.30.37 PM.png

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

BanksyIllustration_2019 Venice.png

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.

Invader, Vienna, 2007.jpeg

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.

‘Simpsons’-Inspired Parody Painting By Kaws Sells For $14.8 Million At Auction

KAWS,  Holiday  (2019).

KAWS, Holiday (2019).

SOURCE: cartoonbrew.com

On April 1, an auction held at Sotheby’s in Hong Kong brought in $28 million from collectors particularly interested in Kaws’ artwork inspired by The Simpsons. His auction record was broken with the sale of his 2005 piece “The KAWS Album,” which sold for a whopping $14.8 million (HK$115.9 million), when the estimate was between $750,000 to $1 million.

Jeff Koons’s Iconic “Rabbit” Sculpture Is Expected to Fetch up to $70 Million at Auction

KAWS,  Holiday  (2019).

KAWS, Holiday (2019).

SOURCE: robbreport.com

Jeff Koons has long been the art world’s enfant terrible, and few other works from his oeuvre express it better than his Rabbit sculpture from 1986. With its shiny, reflective surface, childish subject matter and the implicit lampooning of high-brow puffery, it synthesizes themes that have become lifelong obsessions for the Pop art prince—and which have kept him at the forefront of the art world. Love him or hate him, you know him. And one would be hard pressed to find a better emblem of his career than Rabbit.

Welsh Garage Owner Sells His Christmas Present From Banksy for Six Figures + Other Stories

SOURCE: artnet.com

The Welsh owner of the garagethat Banksy transformed his into latest canvas over Christmas has decided to sell the mural after all. Despite being helped by the Hollywood star Michael Sheen, who grew up in Port Talbot and donated thousands of dollars to protect the artwork, the steelworker Ian Lewis found the cost and responsibility for maintaining the work too much. He sold it to gallerist John Bandler for a reported six-figure sum. He says Season’s Greetings will remain in Port Talbot for two or three years, but might be moved after that. (Guardian)

Banksy's latest work. Photo by Ben Birchall/PA Images via Getty Images.

Banksy's latest work. Photo by Ben Birchall/PA Images via Getty Images.

21 Facts About Banksy

SOURCE: Sotheby’s

1. Although there has been a great deal of speculation over the years, Banksy’s true identity has never been revealed.

2. It is known that he is originally from Bristol, England, and that fellow Bristolian street artist Robert del Naja a.k.a. 3D served as a source of inspiration to Banksy.

3. Much of his street art and “urban interventions” act as critical commentary on major global issues, including terrorism, political authority and capitalism.

4. Initially, he preferred drawing and producing freehand, but in 2000 he began using stencils, in part due to how quickly they may be produced.


‘Love Is in the Bin,’ Banky’s Notorious Self-Shredded Artwork, Is Already Getting Its First Museum Show


SOURCE: Artnet.com

Banksy’s self-shredding artwork is on the move.

A private museum in the south of Germany will be the first institution to exhibit the picture, titled Love is in the Bin (2018). The artwork will go on view at for one month, from February 5 and March 3, at publishing magnate Frieder Burda’s eponymous museum.