KAWS - 20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale Hong Kong Tuesday, June 21, 2022 | Phillips

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  • “When you paint over ads, it clicks […] There were Calvin Klein ads of Kate Moss or Christy Turlington. I think that’s when I realised it was more about communication; there was a dialogue.”
    — KAWS

    Having established a name for himself as an artist, collector, designer, and entrepreneur, KAWS is widely revered as one of the most iconic and prolific creators of our generation. The present work, UNTITLED (CALVIN KLEIN), perfectly exemplifies the meticulous attention to detail and creative ingenuity for which he is best known, showcasing the artist’s clean graphic style that stems from his engagement with the street-art subcultures of New York in the 1990s.


    Before KAWS dominated the art world with his parodic compositions of pop culture characters and larger-than-life public installations, KAWS developed his now instantly recognisable aesthetic tagging advertising posters on the streets of San Francisco and New York. Employing his signature crossed bones and X-ed out eyes—motifs that remain the trademark of his oeuvre to this day—he called into question the notions of mass consumption and the discourse between “high” and “low” forms of art.  



    KAWS, UNTITLED (CALVIN KLEIN)  reworked poster at a New York bus shelter, 1999 

    “I would walk up and ask people to move out of the way, ‘excuse me’ and no-one said anything, people thought it was my job… I would [replace all the posters] of Houston Street in one night.”
    — KAWS

    For his early reworked advertisement works, KAWS would pry out the lock of a bus shelter or billboard display hoarding with the help of a locksmith who cut him a set of master keys, affording KAWS with the ability to effortlessly access most of the city’s advertising cabinets. Freed from the looming threat of being caught, KAWS easily removed posters in broad daylight, taking them home in batches to deliberate and labour over, only returning them once they were all immaculately rendered to his liking. These reinterpreted posters effectively blurred the lines between the original and the intervention, leaving the public to wonder whether the advertisements had been vandalised or reworked as part of a marketing campaign, or if the modified versions were in fact the originally intended and placed imagery.  



    KAWS, UNTITLED (US), 2002
    Sold by Phillips Hong Kong, 29 November 2021, for HK$11,745,000 (Premium)



    From a small, limited edition of 5 silkscreens on paper, the present work features American model Christy Turlington posing for Calvin Klein, disrupted by KAWS’s iconic X-ed eyed protagonist. Here, KAWS inserts his character into the image as if taking on a serpentine form, coiling around Turlington’s body like a snake and peeking at the viewer from behind her shoulder. The image was first rendered by KAWS over a Calvin Klein advertisement published in 1999, that was placed within a bus-shelter advertisement display cabinet.




    KAWS reworking advertisements in New York, 1997, with narration by Ron English

    Video Courtesy of Daniel Lahoda


    KAWS’s witty and sarcastic engagement with visual culture establishes him as a leading figure in the art world today. By creating tensions between the original and the appropriated, KAWS simultaneously celebrates and critiques consumerism, producing an impressive repertoire of humorous yet thought-provoking works that continue to enrich the lexicon of contemporary art.


    In the beginning of his career, KAWS strove to break down the so-called boundaries between fine art and mass media, high and low culture. It would be an understatement to say at this point that he has succeeded in achieving that goal, with his flattering, witty creations now taking the luxury and collectibles markets by storm. His ascent to international fame has garnered him a devoted and star-studded following, including major industry giants including Nike, Dior, and Uniqlo, of whom he has all collaborated with. His practice has been honoured with extensive exhibitions on an international scale, with recent venues including the Serpentine Galleries, presenting his collaboration with Acute Art and the online video game Fortnite (2022); Skarstedt, New York (2021); the Brooklyn Museum in New York (2021); and the National Gallery of Victoria, Australia (2019-2020).


    • Provenance

      Private Collection
      SBI Art Auction, Tokyo, 24 October 2015, lot 17
      Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      New York, Zalman Gallery, KAWS (another example exhibited)
      Atlanta, High Museum of Art, KAWS PRINTS, 1 December 2021 - 27 March 2022 (another example exhibited)

    • 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 numbered 'KAWS.. 3/5' lower right
silkscreen on paper
123.5 x 65.7 cm. (50 x 26 in.)
Executed in 1999, this work is number 3 from an edition of 5.

Full Cataloguing

HK$500,000 - 700,000 

Sold for HK$1,008,000

Contact Specialist

Danielle So
Specialist, Head of Day Sale
+852 2318 2027

20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale

Hong Kong Auction 21 June 2022