KAWS - 20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale in Association with Poly Auction Hong Kong Sunday, June 6, 2021 | Phillips

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  • “When I was younger, I wasn’t going to galleries, I wasn’t going to museums … There was a lot of ‘this is fine art’ or ‘this is not fine art’; ‘this is commercial’, ‘this is high art’. In my mind I thought, art’s purpose is to communicate and reach people. Whichever outlet that’s being done through is the right one.” —KAWS


    Since the late 1990s, KAWS has transformed iconic characters such as the Stormtroopers, the elite space marines of the Galactic Empire in the Star Wars franchise, into witty amalgamations of themselves on a variety of works - canvases, sculptures, toys and in the street. These mash-ups have formed the hallmark of his practice as he explores the notion of mass consumption in modern day’s society and the elevation of popular culture imagery within the discourse of contemporary art.


    Executed in 2000, UNTITLED (STORMTROOPERS) is an early seminal work of KAWS, featuring his most recognisable artistic elements. One Stormtrooper’s face is covered with the distinctive flat cartoon-like mask formed from a piratical skull and crossed bones, each eye socket crossed out with an X, symbols that have been consistently present in KAWS’s work over the years. The other two Stormtroopers are wrapped in the embrace of a coiling snake-like creature, reminiscent of his iconographic interventions on streetside advertisements at the start of his career. His purposeful interpenetration, instead of simple superimposition, harmoniously interweaves modification with original form.


    Drawing inspiration from the ethos of Andy Warhol’s Do-It-Yourself series of half-completed and handmade, paint-by-number canvases based on their mass-produced counterparts, KAWS uses mixed media to produce witty and brash imagery as a unique play of his trademark aesthetic and motifs.


    UNTITLED (STORMTROOPER) comes to market as a rare and important early example of the rich multi-layered artistic discourse of KAWS’s work, where his unapologetic cultural commentary resonates with contemporary audiences. Currently honoured with a career-spanning retrospective at the Brooklyn Museum in New York, KAWS is undeniably one of the most important artists in the art world today.


    KAWS Graffiti
    Installation view of KAWS: Companionship in the Age of Loneliness at National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 20 September 2019 – 13 April 2020.
    Photo © Tom Ross. Image courtesy of National Gallery of Victoria.

     [1] David Villorente and Todd James, Mascots & Mugs: The Characters and Cartoons of Subway Graffiti, Interview with KAWS, New York, 2007, p. 284

    • Provenance

      Private Collection, Tokyo
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Literature

      Monica Ramirez-Montagut, KAWS 1993-2010, New York, 2010, p. 12 (illustrated)

    • 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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Property from an Important Japanese Private Collection



signed and dated 'KAWS.. 2000..' on the reverse
acrylic on photo laid on canvas
70 x 100 cm. (27 1/2 x 39 3/8 in.)
Executed in 2000.

Full Cataloguing

HK$1,600,000 - 2,600,000 

Sold for HK$6,300,000

Contact Specialist

Danielle So
Associate Specialist, Head of Day Sale

20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale in Association with Poly Auction

Hong Kong Auction 7 June 2021