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  • Condition Report

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  • Provenance

    Honor Fraser Gallery, Los Angeles
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    “What’s abstraction to somebody that knows something? If you look at something but then you know what it is, is it still abstraction? You just start looking at the gestures and how they work and thinking about the history of painting and how it can relate to that.” (KAWS quoted in Senay Kenfe, ‘Exclusive: KAWS on “MAN’S BEST FRIEND” at Honor Fraser’, The Hundreds, 16 September 2014, online)

    Cartoons have had a long history in American popular culture— their short narratives simple, direct and persuasive under the unsuspecting veil of humour and cuteness. A genre no longer confined to the realm of children’s entertainment, its ability to relate to all ages and remain timeless throughout history and contemporary culture is often overlooked. American artist Brian Donnelly, better known as KAWS, taps into this medium by parodying characters from popular cartoons with his distinct artistic aesthetic. These characters, with crossed-out eyes, skull-like faces and crossbones for ears have become the most iconic features of his oeuvre. KAWS draws from the comforting familiarity associated with popular cartoon characters, but also abstracts and reworks them with warped perspectives and frenzied outlines to elicit more complex emotional responses from his viewers.

    In 2014, Honor Fraser Gallery in Los Angeles held a solo exhibition for the artist featuring his then-latest body of works. The exhibition MAN’S BEST FRIEND highlighted how various cartoons influenced KAWS, with hints of iconic characters coming through abstract compositions of colours and crossed eyes. The present lot continues this exploration in the form of a large-scale tondo work. With ‘X’s for eyes that conventionally represent death in cartoon culture, KAWS uses his signature motif as main anchors of the composition as differently-sized fragments of the familiar comic strip beagle emerge into view. Well-known for his clean visual imagery, KAWS’s lack of visible brushstrokes and use of a minimalist monochrome palette maintain a graphic quality to the work— stripping the figurative into an abstract surface that directly confronts its viewers. The viewer recognises the lovable beagle character, but its crossed-out eyes and agitated lines assign an entirely new personality to the original cartoon. The repetitive effect from the multiplication of the figure conveys a sense of insecurity— as if the character is attempting to assert its presence by echoing itself. Accompanied by its outstretched limbs and unnatural smile, undercurrents of angst, unease and even empathy, are elicited in the viewer.

    As with the present lot, the MAN’S BEST FRIEND series applies a highly zoomed-in perspective towards his paintings. His figures are only seen in parts, as the rest of them disappear along the edges of the canvas. Almost as if to mimic the familiarity of taking snapshots of a friend on a mobile phone (most evident in the work MAN’S BEST FRIEND, 2014), works from this series convey a sense of the nostalgia experienced by a generation of youths and millennials who grew up watching and reading these cartoons. Through UNTITLED (MBFL6), KAWS brings to light the abstract nature of animation, but also shows how personal an image can be in evoking inherently human expressions. As pointed out by curator and scholar Michael Auping, “cartoons are designed to simplify human emotions: happy/angry, good/ bad. KAWS introduces more complex and subtle feelings, such as melancholy, disgust, pride, and envy. This is existentialism absorbed into a cartoon world.” (Michael Auping, in ‘America’s Cartoon Mind’, in Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, WHERE THE END STARTS: KAWS, Texas, 2017, p.68 ). Put simply, KAWS’s unique vision allows the artist to sugarcoat the harshness and uncertainty of contemporary life through lovable characters and simple colours.

    Using accessible characters as his main subjects, KAWS opens up the realm of art not only to art critics and intellectuals, but also to a mass audience through popular culture. Not only is he highly sought after in the realm of art, he has continued to influence every possible commercial outlet with his visual identity and voice, collaborating with the fashion and design industry, producing toys, clothes and even furniture, resulting in an increasingly large following on social media. One of the reasons why KAWS is gaining worldwide popularity at breakneck speed, according to art historian and curator Germano Celant, is that his works represent “the democratisation, industrial and commercial, of a contemporary aesthetic, which is supported by the digital network with KAWS as its protagonist with his thousands and thousands of followers”. (Germano Celant, quoted in ‘KAWS célèbre: street artist's first survey—and huge inflatable—make waves in Hong Kong’, The Art Newspaper, 25 March 2019, online)

    KAWS was honoured in 2018 by amfAR at its fourth annual amfAR Gala in Hong Kong. He then received an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts (DFA) from the New York Academy of Fine Arts in New York in April 2019. The artist’s next solo exhibition will take place in Detroit at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD), showing 10 May – 18 August 2019.

  • Catalogue Essay

    「抽象對一個人來說是讓他知道了什麼?如果你去看一些東西但你知道它是什麼,它仍然是抽象嗎?你只是開始去看那些姿態,它們是如何作用的,並思考繪畫的歷史以及與之有什麼關聯。」(KAWS引自Senay Kenfe,《獨家:KAWS談弗雷澤榮譽畫廊展出的《人類最好的朋友》,The Hundreds,2014年9月16日,網路文章)

    卡通在美國流行文化中有著悠久的歷史 - 其簡要的敘事單純、直接,在讓人毫無戒心的幽默和可愛之下,直接被說服、感染。作為一種不僅僅局限於娛樂兒童的題材,它的老少咸宜以及它在整個歷史和當代文化中所保有的永恆性卻常常被人忽視。以KAWS為名的美國藝術家布萊恩·唐納利(Brian Donnelly),憑藉流行卡通人物為藍本,以及自己獨特的藝術審美,將這一題材融入到他的創作中。這些角色,帶著「XX」眼,骷髏般的臉和交叉骨耳朵,已成為他作品中最具標誌性的特徵。 KAWS汲取了流行卡通人物身上所存在的讓人舒心的熟悉感,同時也以扭曲的角度和瘋狂的輪廓將他們抽象化和重造,然後激發觀者更為複雜的情感反應。

    2014年,洛杉磯的弗雷澤榮譽畫廊(Honor Fraser Gallery)為藝術家舉辦的個展中展出了他當時最新的作品。 這個名為《人類最好的朋友》(MAN’S BEST FRIEND)的作品展示了卡通人物如何影響KAWS,畫中暗示了該漫畫家的標誌性人物,在KAWS抽象的構成和「X」眼的之組合中重生。此次的拍品以大尺幅圓形畫的呈現方式繼續探索這一主題。「X」眼傳統意義上在卡通文化中代表了死亡,KAWS使用他的標誌作為構圖的主要錨點,而人們熟悉的漫畫中的主角則以不同大小的碎片形式進入人們的視野。KAWS以其簡潔的視覺圖像而聞名,無形的筆觸和對極簡主義的單色調色塊的使用,為作品保留了平面圖像般的質感-將有形的圖像剝離成為直接面對觀者的抽象表面。可愛的卡通人物依然可辩,然而其「X」眼和顛狂的線條則給這個漫畫原型賦予了全新的個性。主題人物的重複增加傳遞了一種不安全感-彷彿在試圖通過回應自身來強調他的存在。伴隨著其伸展的四肢和不自然的微笑,引發觀者心中生起焦慮、不安甚至同情的暗流。

    與本次拍賣作品一樣,《人類最好的朋友》系列在他的畫作中採用了高度放大的視角。他作品中的人物只能看到部分,而其餘部分則隨著畫布的邊緣消失不見。幾乎就像用手機為身邊朋友拍攝快照時所帶有的熟悉感一樣(在2014年《人類最好的朋友》中最為明顯),這個系列的作品傳遞了觀看和閱讀這些漫畫長大的年輕人和千禧世代記憶裡的懷舊感。通過《無題 (MBFL6)》,KAWS揭示了動畫的抽象本質,同時也展示了圖像在引發人類內在表達上的個人情感牽引作用。正如策展人和學者邁克爾·奧平(Michael Auping)所指出的那樣,「卡通旨在簡化人類的情感:快樂/憤怒、好/壞。 KAWS則引入了更複雜和微妙的感情,如憂鬱,厭惡,驕傲和嫉妒。這是存在主義被吸收到卡通的世界。](邁克爾·奧平,摘自《美國的卡通心靈》,沃斯堡現代藝術博物館,《始於終點:KAWS》,德克薩斯州,2017年,第68頁)。簡而言之,KAWS的獨特視角讓他得以通過惹人喜愛的人物角色和簡單的色彩,來為當代生活的嚴酷性和不確定性裹上一層糖衣。

    以平易近人的人物為主題,KAWS所創造的藝術領域不僅為藝術評論家和知識分子開放,也通過流行文化面向普羅大眾。他不僅在藝術領域受到高度追捧,而且還持續用他的視覺形象和聲量去影響每一個可能的商業渠道,與時尚和設計行業合作,生產玩具、服裝甚至家具,並在社交媒體上吸引了越來越多的關注。根據藝術史學家兼策展人傑曼諾·塞蘭特(Germano Celant)的說法,KAWS能以極快的速度受到國際性的歡迎,原因之一在於,他的作品「代表了當代美學的民主化、工業化和商業化,而社群網絡的推波助瀾下,正如他作品中的人物有著成千上萬的粉絲支持一樣。」 (傑曼諾·塞蘭特,引自《著名的KAWS:街頭藝術家的首次回顧 - 以及巨大的充氣同伴-搔動香港》,藝術新聞,2019年3月25日,網路文章)

    KAWS於2018年在香港舉行的第四屆年度amfAR慈善晚宴上榮獲amFAR的頒獎。 2019年4月在紐約榮獲紐約美術學院榮譽美術博士(DFA)。藝術家的下一個個展將在底特律當代藝術博物館(MOCAD)舉辦,展期將由2019年5月10日至8月18日。

  • Artist Bio


    American • 1974

    To understand the work of KAWS is to understand his roots in the skateboard and graffiti crews of New York City. Brian Donnelly chose KAWS as his moniker to tag city streets beginning in the 1990s, and quickly became a celebrated standout in the scene. Having swapped spray paint for explorations in fine art spanning sculpture, painting and collage, KAWS has maintained a fascination with classic cartoons, including Garfield, SpongeBob SquarePants and The Simpsons, and reconfigured familiar subjects into a world of fantasy. 

    Perhaps he is most known for his larger-than-life fiberglass sculptures that supplant the body of Mickey Mouse onto KAWS' own imagined creatures, often with 'x'-ed out eyes or ultra-animated features. However, KAWS also works frequently in neon and vivid paint, adding animation and depth to contemporary paintings filled with approachable imagination. There is mass appeal to KAWS, who exhibits globally and most frequently in Asia, Europe and the United States.  

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Ο ◆21



signed and dated 'KAWS..15' on the reverse
acrylic on canvas
diameter: 244.3 cm. (96 1/8 in.)
Painted in 2015.

HK$3,500,000 - 5,500,000 

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Contact Specialist
Isaure de Viel Castel
Head of Department, 20th Century & Contemporary Art

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 26 May 2019