KAWS - New Now New York Wednesday, September 26, 2018 | Phillips
  • Provenance

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

  • Catalogue Essay

    Working as a background painter for the animated series Doug and collaborating with downtown New York as a street artist, KAWS has created a whole world of characters and imagery. In the early 1990s, KAWS started tagging billboards and bus shelters, injecting his own cast of animated caricatures onto already existing advertisements, for example, by adding puffy skulls with X-ed out eyes to the likes of Kate Moss in a Supreme Ad and Christy Turlington in a Calvin Klein Ad. He slowly began shifting away from tagging photographic, public Ads and initiated the formation of his own characters “Accomplice”, “Chum” and “Companion” in addition to his own take on classic characters like SpongeBob SquarePants, Snoopy, Michelin Man, Mickey Mouse and his own version of The Simpsons, titled The Kimpsons.
    The present lot presents Snoopy, an American Beagle and companion to Charlie Brown in the comic strip Peanuts created by Charles Schulz. However, KAWS’ Snoopy has been playfully renamed by the artist, now known as “Joe KAWS.” From 1950 until his death in 2005, Schulz’s beloved characters appeared in international and national newspapers every day, deeply rooting themselves in generations of globally diverse viewers. KAWS explains, “I’m into Schulz as an artist, a company, and an icon; I got into his stuff just because I liked the looseness of the line work, and I thought that it was just sort of a nice thing to bring into my paintings, even if it’s abstract and unidentifiable” (KAWS in Steff Yotka, “Inside KAWS’s Studio With the Artist—And His Snoopy for Uniqlo Toys,” Vogue, April 27, 2017).

    Untitled, showing just the top of the dog’s head with KAWS’ signature X-ed out eyes, comes from a 2014 series of works entitled “Man’s Best Friend.” By extracting minimalist, detailed crops of Charlie Brown, Lucy, Pig-Pen and Snoopy, KAWS has left just a hint of the persona being portrayed, yet even with just a dissociated portion the viewer is able to immediately recognize these childhood friends. As the artist comments, “[I] found it weird how infused a cartoon could become in people's lives; the impact it could have, compared to regular politics” (KAWS in Healy & Murray, "Graffiti Artist Turned Gallery Artist Turned Art Toy Maker, KAWS," Pop, February 2007, pp. 260-265). KAWS’ simplistic yet bold paintings and sculptures playfully and inventively rework quintessential cartoon imagery while touching on the viewer’s childhood relationship to this ensemble of friendly faces.

  • Artist Biography


    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 .. 14" on the reverse
acrylic on canvas
74 x 60 in. (188 x 152.4 cm.)
Painted in 2014.

$100,000 - 150,000 

Sold for $200,000

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Sam Mansour
Associate Specialist, Head of New Now Sale
New York
+1 212 940 1219

New Now

New York Auction 26 September 2018