KAWS - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale Hong Kong Saturday, November 24, 2018 | Phillips
  • Provenance

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

  • Catalogue Essay

    On his skull-and-bones motif, KAWS explains, “I was interested in that image ‘cause it was limitless in terms of translation: anywhere, in any country, it’s still a skull. You can’t really get more universal than that.”

    Provocatively half dissected and rendered in a sophisticated grey-scale palette, COMPANION (RESTING PLACE) monumentalises the beloved character created by Brian Donnelly, one of the most popular artists of his generation, who goes by the pseudonym KAWS. Implementing KAWS’s signature logos, the X replaces one of the eyes, the protruding crossbones, though bisected, signal an ear or hair, while the playfully oversized features provide comedic relief to the underlying tones of existentialism. This work is one of the only few life-size grey sculptures completed during the final season of the artist’s brand OriginalFake. Expressing the namesake duality that encapsulates the allure of KAWS’s work, COMPANION (RESTING PLACE) points to an ingenuity that emerges from previously codified figures and concerns executed in a thrilling KAWS-ified twist. In true KAWS fashion, as the visibility of his work increased, and intrigued followers requested more information about the characters, KAWS humorously revealed the literal interior of Companion, instead of providing further details on its psychological or emotional state.

    After studying at the School of Visual Arts in New York, the artist’s work as an illustrator informed his dynamic fascination with the impact of cartoons in modern life. Finding pleasure in tackling assertive marketing characters, KAWS transforms these well-known figures into uncanny and even somewhat sadistic doppelgängers that have grown into idolised emblems in their own right. First appearing in 1996 as a witty graffiti tag on a Marlboro billboard and later becoming the protagonist of a limited-edition vinyl figurine created in collaboration with Japan’s Bounty Hunter in 1999, iterations of the ever-mutable COMPANION have attracted a cult of avid collectors that have followed KAWS from the streets into the major galleries and museum exhibitions surveying his phenomenal work worldwide.

    When KAWS entered the graffiti or “graff” world in the early 1990s before moving on to his interventionist street art, the obliteration of the status of the art object as something elite and unique and the subsequent augmented propensity for dissemination and mobility, exemplified by the works of Andy Warhol and Keith Haring, played a key role in shaping his creative output. Considering the concurrent progression of KAWS’s career and the rampant rise of technologies such as computers and the Internet, the artist’s multiplicity of collaborative offerings spanning the realms of fashion, advertising, photography and graphic art, expresses the limitless variants of information spreading and interchanging across the interface of media. Challenging notions of authenticity and originality through its combination of diverse visual sources, COMPANION (RESTING PLACE) responds to a reality that interweaves demands for both identity and anonymity, the counterculture of the individual and a desire for transpersonal integration. For KAWS and other post-Pop, post-Minimal artists, art “is not a prison that won’t allow the artist outside its perimeter, but something that is everything and its opposite, an open, endless field in which the versatile person can roam, becoming unclassifiable and unique.” (Germano Celant, “BD and K,” exh. cat. Brian Donnelly, Germano Celant, Gary Panter, Harry Philbrick, and Mónica Ramírez-Montagut, KAWS 1993-2010, New York: Rizzoli and The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, 2010, p. 47.)

    Rooted in his earlier mediations of corporate advertisements, the present lot depicts KAWS’s ability to chip away at that which is hidden beneath shiny surfaces while still maintaining an emotional distance allowing viewers to assign their own narratives and beliefs. From his billboard, phone booth, and bus shelter “subvertising” to his partnerships with some of the largest cultural brands including Comme des Garçons, Nike, and Kanye West, KAWS reads the unspoken games of desire and power within images and comments precisely on those veiled messages instead of negating them. COMPANION (RESTING PLACE) exposes the figure’s vital organs and muscles, as an explicit yet equally cryptic way to call into question notions of uniqueness, authorship, and mortality bubbling beneath the smooth exterior of his work.

    Mónica Ramírez-Montagut furthermore posits that perhaps KAWS’s take on popular culture has a political motivation, playing on the fact that it can have a larger impact in shaping our culture and everyday lives than regular politics. She asks, “are Homer Simpson and Spongebob better poised to incorporate and convey the contradictions of our contemporary lifestyle?” Leaving this question unanswered for viewers to ponder, Ramírez-Montagut concludes, KAWS’s works are “gatekeepers’ to a new consciousness, one that challenges homogeneity and hegemonic forces.” (Mónica Ramírez-Montagut, “KAWS: Seeing You Seeing Yourself,” exh. cat. Brian Donnelly, Germano Celant, Gary Panter, Harry Philbrick, and Mónica Ramírez-Montagut, KAWS 1993-2010, New York: Rizzoli and The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, 2010, p. 136.)

    While undoubtedly stimulating a sense of surprise and delight, COMPANION (RESTING PLACE) incorporates the best of KAWS in a single colossal work that symbolises a paradigmatic shift in our collective understanding of what art can be.

  • 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

Property from a Private Asian Collection



painted aluminum
152.4 x 160 x 203 cm. (60 x 62 7/8 x 79 7/8 in.)
Executed in 2013, this work is number 2 from an edition of 3 plus 2 artist's proofs and is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by the KAWS studio.

HK$4,500,000 - 5,500,000 

Sold for HK$6,100,000

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