KAWS - 20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale Hong Kong Saturday, May 25, 2019 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Private Collection, Japan

  • Catalogue Essay

    Rendered in a miniature scale and executed in 2001, the present lot is one of the first versions of the artist’s trademark COMPANION figures to be made in bronze after the release of the COMPANION vinyl toy in 1999 that was created in collaboration with Japan’s Bounty Hunter. After graduating from the School of Visual Arts in New York in 1996, KAWS made a trip to Japan where he stumbled across streetwear contemporaries such as Nigo, Stash and Hiroshi Fujiwara, and began to look to vinyl toys as a source of inspiration. Featuring the signature ‘X-eyes’, the ears and head of a skull and positioning the figure in a squat, KAWS still manages to convey toy-like plushness in his work despite its medium. As he explained, speaking of his artistic practice of blurring the line between toys and sculptures, “to me they involve the same thought process, so it’s funny that when I work big in bronze, it’s called a sculpture, but something I do that’s small and plastic is called a toy” (KAWS, quoted in Carlo McCormick, “From the Streets to TV to Fine Art Galleries, KAWS Is Everywhere’, Paper, 4 November 2013, online.) A bold statement to the classical medium of sculpture, COMPANION confronts the viewer with a character that is arguably the most recognisable yet is imbued with a sense of the uncanny through the skull motif. At once saccharine and peculiar, KAWS challenges cultural boundaries, tapping into the nostalgia of universally cherished cartoon characters and injecting them with emotional undertones. A rare and early work among the artist’s body of sculptural works, and from an edition of only five, COMPANION comprises the ultimate ‘prototype’ which has since attracted a cult of avid collectors that have followed KAWS from the streets into the major galleries and museum exhibitions worldwide.

  • 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, dated and numbered 'KAWS..01 2/5' on the underside
20 x 10 x 5 cm. (7 7/8 x 3 7/8 x 1 7/8 in.)
Executed in 2001, this work is number 2 from an edition of 5.

HK$500,000 - 700,000 

Sold for HK$1,187,500

Contact Specialist
Isaure de Viel Castel
Head of Department, 20th Century & Contemporary Art

Charlotte Raybaud
Head of Day Sale, 20th Century & Contemporary Art

20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale

Hong Kong Auction 26 May 2019