KAWS - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale Hong Kong Saturday, November 23, 2019 | Phillips

Create your first list.

Select an existing list or create a new list to share and manage lots you follow.

  • Provenance

    Galerie Perrotin, New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    New York, Galerie Perrotin, KAWS: PASS THE BLAME, 2 November - 21 December 2013

  • Catalogue Essay

    'KAWS is not just referring to pop culture, he is making it.' (Michael Auping, 'America’s Cartoon Mind', KAWS: WHERE THE END STARTS, exh. cat., Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas, 2016, p. 63)

    KAWS is one of the most prominent and forward-looking artists of our present age. Prodigious in scale and composed of vibrant chromatic hues, the present lot is a striking example of the American visual contemporary artist’s signature shaped canvas paintings. Immaculately rendered in shades of red, blue, turquoise and neon yellow, TALK BACK appears to leap off the wall and into the viewer's space, juxtaposing the canvas’ flat surface as the viewer is thrown into a mass of kaleidoscopic dynamism. Tapping into the nostalgic potency of cherished childhood icons who are universally recognised, KAWS redesigns them in his work, inserting their cartoon forms back into the realm of fine art.

    TALK BACK represents a robust development of this strand of the artist’s practice, as he twists and magnifies the animated pop culture icons with an aesthetic that straddles both traditional illustration and expressive abstraction. Through elements that seem to resemble cartoon eyes, a chin, and clenched teeth, the canvas hints at certain character’s features without offering the viewer with enough information for a picture to be fully formed. The cartoonish symbolism extends onto the shape of the canvas itself, as KAWS moves away from a conventional rectangular plane towards a more abstract form. Among the colourful elements, however, a pair of X-ed out eyes confront the viewer. Drawing on the imagery from cartoons after a character has drunk from a vial of poison, KAWS’s trademark X-ed out eyes give a somewhat sinister edge to a work that initially feels very playful. The subversive nature of the present lot’s title, TALK BACK, contributes to the unique sense of the uncanny that is fostered in the work. While the result of KAWS’s ingenious compositions is a visual language that is recognisable, translatable and impressionable, his infused animated icons also present the viewer with witty humour and critical discourse.

    Painted with such perfected clarity that there is no trace of his freehanded approach, TALK BACK clearly demonstrates the artist’s technical mastery and meticulous attention to detail. The precision of his brushwork reflects the artist’s admiration of Jeff Koons, whose ‘perfectionist mentality’ KAWS has commended, appreciating how ‘over the top’ it is (Brian Donnelly, quoted in Tobey Maguire, ‘KAWS’, Interview Magazine, 27 April 2010, online). KAWS’s works follow in the footsteps of Pop Art, and his questioning of consumer culture aligns his practice with artistic predecessors, including Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, Claes Oldenburg and Takashi Murakami. Uniquely to him, however, KAWS’s instantly identifiable aesthetic straddles both the art and design worlds with a global outreach arguably achieved by no artist before him, incorporating public art, product design, toy making, painting, sculpture and printmaking. With inspiration drawn from a variety of other sources, including high art, comic books, and popular animations, KAWS’s clean graphic style of perfect lines and abstract shapes stems from his initial background as a graffiti provocateur in the 1990s. In modifying photographic images on billboards, fashion and bus shelter advertisements, KAWS would leave his playful mark in such a skilful manner that his brushstroke-free versions could have been mistaken for the initially intended imagery. Executed in 2013, the present lot is thus not only a compelling example of KAWS’s refined aesthetic, but of the transformation of his work into the upper echelons of fine art galleries and institutions.

    With his unique aesthetic that has garnered him a devoted international following including more than 2.5 million people on Instagram, KAWS has experienced a meteoric ascent to international acclaim, vehemently establishing his position in the lexicon of contemporary art. His characteristically bright compositions have avidly caught the attention of collectors worldwide, as well as industry giants and collaborators such as Nike, Dior and Uniqlo. His practice has been honoured with numerous solo shows around the globe including, most recently, a monumental retrospective at the National Gallery of Victoria, Australia (2019-2020).

  • 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

Property from an Important Private Collection



signed, titled and dated 'KAWS..13 "TALK BACK"..' on the reverse
acrylic on canvas
241 x 221 cm. (94 7/8 x 87 in.)
Painted in 2013.

HK$8,000,000 - 12,000,000 

Sold for HK$7,590,000

Contact Specialist
Charlotte Raybaud
Head of Evening Sale, 20th Century & Contemporary Art

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 24 November 2019