KAWS - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale Hong Kong Wednesday, June 22, 2022 | Phillips

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    The artist with the current work (left)


    Being socially rebellious, internationally acclaimed contemporary American artist KAWS first found his unique artistic language in the streets of New York City during the 90s. Graffitiing and reworking over advertisements liberated his creativity, where his artist’s signature ‘XX’ motif came to life and unique figure motifs like COMPANION and BENDY were born. KAWS adds his own era-specific cartoon creations into his compositions and infuses his iconic symbolism into them. Taking on the legacies of Andy Warhol, Keith Haring and Jeff Koons for including elements of contemporary pop culture, cartoons and graffiti into his artistic vocabulary, KAWS expands his presence beyond bus stop and phonebooth into the globe.


    Art for All


    KAWS, COMPANION, 121 foot, Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong


    KAWS artworks drastically vary from collectible plushies for homes, tondo canvases for museums, 2 foot tall sculptures for parks and monumental 121 foot floaties for major cities, such as one in Hong Kong Victoria Harbour in 2019. The artist strives to create non-exclusive art and a social symbol that fuses part of contemporary culture and consumerism. Furthermore, the ambitious artist collaborates with commercial brands like UNIQLO, Bearbrick and Campana brothers. This expands his outreach further and transforms his art with unlimited possibilities in forms of multiple mediums, like daily clothewear, collectibles and furniture, etc. KAWS makes sure his art is accessible for all classes and his presence is everywhere in the world.



    Iconic Circular Tondo


    Raphael, The Alba Madonna, c. 1510. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.


    From 2010 onwards KAWS started painting circular tondo canvases, this form dates back to the Renaissance. The rounded canvas circulates and centralises the direct focal point of the viewer onto the composition, a format that great Masters like Raphael excelled in. For example in The Alba Madonna, the focus is brought to the figures side-eyeing across the canvas. The present work features the same motif with KAWS’ contemporary touch. UNTITLED portrays a side view of a dark blue freckled face with the iconic X eye in teal with bright pink pupils. As the grey eyeball rolls across the centre of the canvas, the character charges on the viewer with a confrontational side-eye stare. KAWS paints with bold blocks of contrasting dark and sharp neon colours to outline the character’s features, the zoomed-in face is flattened and conveys a distinctive sense of abstraction with three-quarters of an eye and a quartered face. As such, the piece demands active engagement to re-associate the represented features of the work with the character it represents.


    The large scale tondo format makes the work monumental, for example, another 96 inches KAWS tondo was exhibited in the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 2013. The work bulges out with a full front view of a pair of XX eyes against an adjacent 1920s-era Hamilton grand environment. This sets up a sharp contrast between a contemporary fashionable icon and a National historic landmark site, elevating this type of large scale tondos to the status of high art. The present lot UNTITLED encapsulates the artist’s idiosyncratic brand of Pop Art that bridges the worlds of art, popular culture and commerce.



    Installation view of the current work at Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, KAWS at PAFA, 2013


    Collector’s Digest


    “KAWS is not just referring to Pop culture, he is making it.”
    — Michael Auping


    Considered as one of the most iconic and forward-thinking artists of his generation, KAWS is celebrated for his multi-disciplinary practice that subverts the traditions of fine art with street art influences, satirising consumer culture.


    Breaking the ideological hierarchies between the avant-garde and kitsch, KAWS gives his characters life through a variety of mediums including clothing, limited-edition toys, and large-scale sculptures. His works can be found in prominent public collections around the world, including the Brooklyn Museum, New York; Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas; CAC Malaga; Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego; High Museum of Art, Atlanta; and the Rosenblum Collection, Paris.

    KAWS has exhibited extensively around the globe, most recently with solo exhibitions at the Serpentine, London: KAWS: NEW FICTION (digital exhibition) from 18 January - 27 February, 2022; the High Museum of Art in Atlanta: KAWS PRINTS, from 3 December 2021 – 27 March 2022; and Skarstedt Gallery in New York (5 November – 11 December 2021), KAWS: SPOKE TOO SOON. KAWS also recently exhibited a monumental retrospective in his hometown, KAWS: WHAT PARTYwhich was hosted by the Brooklyn Museum in New York between 26 February – 5 September 2021. Other recent solo exhibitions also include the Mori Arts Centre in Tokyo (16 July – 11 October 2021), and a retrospective at the National Gallery of Victoria, Australia (2019-2020).

    • Provenance

      Private Collection, Hong Kong

    • Exhibited

      Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, KAWS at PAFA, 12 October 2013 - 5 January 2014

    • 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.  

      View More Works



signed and dated 'KAWS.. 13' on the reverse
acrylic on canvas
diameter 243.8 cm. (95 7/8 in.)
Painted in 2013.

Full Cataloguing

HK$3,500,000 - 4,500,000 

Sold for HK$3,276,000

Contact Specialist

Charlotte Raybaud
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+852 2318 2026

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 22 June 2022