+

Create your first list.

A way to share and manage lots.

  • 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.)

  • Artist Biography

    KAWS

    American • 1974

    KAWS (b. 1974, Jersey City, New Jersey; lives and works in Brooklyn, New York) is renowned for his prolific body of work that straddles the worlds of art and design to include paintings, murals, graphic and product design, street art, and large-scale sculptures. Over the last two decades KAWS has built a successful career with work that consistently shows his formal agility as an artist, as well as his underlying wit, irreverence, and affection for our times. His refined graphic language revitalizes figuration with both big, bold gestures and playful intricacies.  

    KAWS often appropriates and draws inspiration from pop culture animations, forming a unique artistic vocabulary across mediums. Admired for his larger-than-life sculptures and hardedge paintings that emphasize line and color, KAWS’s cast of hybrid cartoon characters are the strongest examples of his exploration of humanity. As seen in his collaborations with global brands, the artist’s imagery possesses a sophisticated humor and reveals a thoughtful interplay with consumer products. With their broad appeal, KAWS’s artworks are highly sought-after by collectors inside and outside of the art world, establishing him as a uniquely prominent artist and influence in today’s culture.  

    View More Works

3

UNTITLED

2015
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.

Estimate
HK$4,000,000 - 5,000,000 
€449,000-561,000
$513,000-641,000

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