KAWS - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale Hong Kong Thursday, March 30, 2023 | Phillips
  • “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

    KAWS is widely regarded as one of the most influential and innovative artists of our day. He is renowned for his achievements as an artist, collector, designer, and entrepreneur, and has established a name for himself in each of these fields. UNTITLED encapsulates the meticulous focus on detail and creative ingenuity for which KAWS is best known, showcasing the artist's clean graphic style which originates from his involvement with the street-art subcultures of New York in the 1990s.


    Executed in 1997, the present work is an early example of KAWS’s reworked advertisements, featuring an iconic KAWS character with a skull head and X-ed out eyes, who curls their way around a posing model set against a photo-studio backdrop. For his early advertisement works, KAWS would pry open bus shelter and billboard displays across New York and San Francisco, using a tool he had been gifted by his friend and fellow artist, Barry McGee. Taking home the advertisement posters, KAWS would deliberate over their compositions before painting on his signature tag of the X-ed out eyes subject who embodies the artist’s alter ego. He would then return the reworked adverts back to either the same or different display cases across the cities. As his modifications were executed with such a meticulous hand, it would leave viewers questioning whether the advertisements had indeed been tampered with, or if they were actually looking at the originally intended imagery.


    As showcased by the present work, KAWS would employ his signature crossed bones and X-ed out eyes—motifs that remain the trademark of his oeuvre to this day—to create tensions between the original and the appropriated and call into question the notions of mass consumption and the discourse between 'high' and 'low' forms of art. In doing so, his witty and sarcastic engagement with visual culture resulted in works that are both humourous and thought-provoking and have taken the luxury and collectibles markets by storm.


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

    Video Courtesy of Daniel Lahoda


    Breaking the ideological hierarchies between the avant-garde and kitsch, KAWS gives his characters life through a variety of mediums including clothing, limited-edition toys, and large-scale sculptures. His works can be found in prominent public collections around the world, including the Brooklyn Museum, New York; Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas; CAC Malaga; Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego; High Museum of Art, Atlanta; and the Rosenblum Collection, Paris.


    KAWS has exhibited extensively around the globe, with recent solo exhibitions at the Serpentine, London: KAWS: NEW FICTION (digital exhibition) from 18 January - 27 February, 2022; the High Museum of Art in Atlanta: KAWS PRINTS, from 3 December 2021 – 27 March 2022; and Skarstedt Gallery in New York (5 November – 11 December 2021), KAWS: SPOKE TOO SOON. KAWS also recently exhibited a monumental retrospective in his hometown, KAWS: WHAT PARTY, which was hosted by the Brooklyn Museum in New York between 26 February – 5 September 2021.

    • Provenance

      Ross + Kramer Gallery, New York
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • 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 dated ‘KAWS..97©’ lower left
acrylic on existing magazine advertisement
30.4 x 19.7 cm. (11 7/8 x 7 3/4 in.)
Executed in 1997.

Full Cataloguing

HK$250,000 - 350,000 

Sold for HK$533,400

Contact Specialist

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

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale

Hong Kong Auction 31 March 2023