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  • Provenance

    Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner in 2015

  • Catalogue Essay

    Artist and designer Brian Donnelly, also known as KAWS, has created a sharp and prolific body of work that bridges the gap between fine art and global commerce. UNTITLED features sizeable fluorescent forms that when viewed from a distance, converge to resemble a close-up detail of one of KAWS’s signature creatures with cartoon hands covering its X-ed out eyes. His bubbly skull-shaped character with crossbones as ears, in addition to his other endearing figures, have achieved a subcultural iconography and are immediately recognisable on a global scale especially to the media-savvy crowd. Though his characters were originally created as riffs on lionised popular culture and cartoon figures, KAWS’s own adaptations have become distinguished icons in their own right.

    In line with the work of Takashi Murakami, Jeff Koons, Keith Haring and Andy Warhol, KAWS refuses to parse distinctions between high versus low art. His participation in the skate culture, graffiti crews, and street-art movement of the early 1990s in downtown Manhattan shaped the artist’s style and affinity for the handmade and do-it-yourself ethic. According to Germano Celant, street art, “is an abandonment of the narcissistic, opportunistic aspect—as concerns the market—of the communicational break, in favour of a fluidity that directly captures the reality of the city,” a description that aptly underscores KAWS’s work. (Germano Celant, “BD and K,” exh. cat., KAWS 1993-2010, New York, 2010, p. 47.) In 1996, Barry McGee gave KAWS a tool to open tamper-proof bolts to unlock glass panels encasing bus stop and phone booth poster ads. In major cities around the world, KAWS would surreptitiously steal posters, add his own graphics to them in acrylic paint, and then stealthily put them back.

    Never intending to overpower the previous image, KAWS would weave his own painted work and strategic humour into existing compositions to stimulate a reconsideration of the advertisement’s hidden message. His painted altercations were so skilfully executed that people often assumed they were part of the original advertisement. This perfectionist mentality carried over to his paintings as illustrated by the pristine lack of visible brushstrokes in UNTITLED. By the end of 2000, KAWS had become so well-known that his masterful acrylic street paintings would last only a few hours since people would break the glass to get into the booths and steal them.

    In 1997, KAWS travelled to Japan and became immersed in the country’s dedication to craftsmanship as well as its lack of a strict hierarchy between merchandise and high art. KAWS met several Japanese designers who would influence his career including Tomoaki Nagao (NIGO®), founder of A Bathing Ape, and Hikaru Iwanaga from Bounty Hunter. Their shared cultivated taste, connoisseurship, ability to influence youth culture, and most importantly, their freedom to work on their own terms profoundly resonated with the young American artist. KAWS describes, “in America, you had to choose between being a fine artist or a commercial artist... In Japan, I never felt that—they were just looking at pieces and creating objects. There was an integrity to it.” (KAWS quoted by Lucia Ferigutti, "The Supersized Sculptures of KAWS," February 8, 2016.) Evident in UNTITLED, the versatile character that KAWS first introduced in his street art, and later transformed into a highly sought-after collectible vinyl figure in collaboration with Bounty Hunter, is nowadays being exhibited as part of major works in museums around the United States, Europe, and Asia.

    Given its flat, non-hierarchical application of paint that instils the entire canvas with an equal relevance, the magnified perspective of UNTITLED blurs the boundaries between figuration and abstraction. The X-ed out eye and cartoon hands only scarcely point to KAWS’s familiar and beloved cast of characters. UNTITLED lures viewers in with its attractive saturated tones and mysterious narrative, yet unlike KAWS’s typical works, the present lot pushes viewers out with its illegibility. Though the Pop artists who preceded KAWS were praised for their “refusing to make art about feelings,” (Deborah Solomon quoted by Mónica Ramírez-Montagut, “KAWS: Seeing You Seeing Yourself,” exh. cat., KAWS 1993-2010, New York, 2010, p. 126.) the present lot goes beyond Pop art’s emotional coolness to the point where we as viewers are excluded from the story taking place. Considering KAWS’s openness to exploring new personalities in his paintings rather than in his toy edition characters, UNTITLED portrays the artist’s exploration of narrative distance.

    UNTITLED speaks to our digitally interconnected world where we see the emergence of a levelling of sources of information and disciplines and a disregard for conventional notions of hierarchy. The present lot participates in our digital era as it functions within this system of art production, reception and interpretation permeated by mass media and technology. Whether it is the recognisable figures from childhood cartoons or the playful and optimistic undertones of KAWS’s wide range of works, viewers of all backgrounds can relate to the message of KAWS. The artist states, “For me, all my work is personal. It is an accumulation of things that create my art. I am who I am, and I’ve never said to myself that I would become a famous graffiti artist or a famous painter. I just painted on the outside and I’m doing it inside.” (KAWS in conversation with Romain Daubriac, KAWS: XX, Clark Magazine #45, November/December 2010.)

  • Catalogue Essay


    與村上隆、傑夫·昆斯、凱斯·哈林、安迪•沃荷看法一致,KAWS拒絕區分高端藝術與通俗藝術。他於1990年代早期在曼哈頓市中心參與滑板文化、塗鴉藝術以及街頭藝術運動,形成了自己的藝術風格以及偏愛自己動手、手工製作的信念。傑曼諾‧切蘭特認為街頭藝術「放下了溝通隔閡中關於市場自我沉醉、投機取巧的方面,從而支持能直接捕捉城市真實的流動性」,這一描述恰如其分地強化了KAWS的作品。(傑曼諾‧切蘭特,「BD和K」,展覽圖錄,布萊恩・唐納利,傑曼諾·切蘭特,蓋瑞·潘特,哈利·菲畢里克及莫妮卡·拉米瑞茲-蒙特加,《KAWS 1993至2010年》,紐約:Rizzoli出版社及Aldrich當代藝術博物館,2010年,第47頁。) 1996年,巴利·麥基將能解鎖防盜螺絲的工具給了KAWS,可以用來打開所有公車站或電話亭內的廣告海報看板。KAWS在全球各大城市暗地裡偷海報,並用壓克力顏料在上面添加他自己的設計,然後悄無聲息地又將海報歸放回原位。


    1997年,KAWS旅遊至日本,沉浸於這個國家對於手工藝的投入及其鮮少嚴格區分商品與高端藝術的特質。KAWS遇見了隨後將改變他創作生涯的一些日本設計師,包括A Bathing Ape創始人長尾智明 (NIGO®),Bounty Hunter創始人岩永光。他們共有的優雅品味、鑒賞能力、對青少年文化的影響力以及最重要的是;他們在各自專業領域能堅守自己的主張來工作的自由,深深的吸引了這位來自美國的年輕藝術家。KAWS形容:「在美國,你必須抉擇成為一個純粹藝術家或者商業藝術家…在日本,我從未感受到這個需求—他們只是單純地欣賞並且創作一件物品。它是一體的。」(KAWS引自盧西亞·菲力古迪,「KAWS的超大型雕塑」,2018年2月8日,2018年4月23日訪問) 正如《無題》中清晰呈現的,KAWS最初在街頭藝術中引進的多個角色後來與Bounty Hunter合作轉變為廣受追捧且具收藏價值的公仔塑像,現今作為其主要作品的一部分廣泛地展出於美國、歐洲及亞洲的博物館。

    鑒於其上色的扁平性與非層次化為整體畫布灌輸了一種均衡感,《無題》的放大視角將具象與抽象的邊界模糊化。X形的眼睛與卡通化的手微弱地指向KAWS為人所熟知且受鐘愛的角色形象。《無題》通過引人注目的飽滿色調與神秘莫測的敘事引誘觀者進入畫面,然而不像KAWS的典型作品,本件拍品同時用它的模糊曖昧將觀者推出畫面。儘管早於KAWS的前輩波普藝術家已經憑藉他們「拒絕使藝術與情感發生關聯」而為人稱頌,(德博拉·所羅門引自莫妮卡·拉米瑞茲-蒙特交,「KAWS:看見你看見自己」,展覽圖錄,布萊恩・唐納利,傑曼諾·切蘭特,蓋瑞·潘特,哈利·菲畢里克及莫妮卡·拉米瑞茲-蒙特交,《KAWS 1993至2010年》,紐約:Rizzoli出版社及Aldrich當代藝術博物館,2010年,第126頁。),本件拍品超越波普藝術中的情緒淡泊,直至將觀者從正在發生中的故事驅逐。考慮到KAWS樂於在繪畫而非有版數的玩偶人物中探索角色新特性,《無題》體現了藝術家對於敘事距離的探索。


  • 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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signed and dated 'KAWS..15' on the reverse
acrylic on canvas
244 x 244 cm. (96 1/8 x 96 1/8 in.)
Painted in 2015.

HK$4,000,000 - 5,000,000 

sold for HK$6,700,000

Contact Specialist
Jonathan Crockett
Deputy Chairman, Asia and Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Asia
+852 2318 2023

Isaure de Viel Castel
Head of Department
+852 2318 2011

Sandy Ma
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+852 2318 2025

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 25 November 2018