KAWS - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale in Association with Poly Auction Hong Kong Thursday, December 3, 2020 | Phillips

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  • "If you look at something but then you know what it is, is it still abstraction? You just start looking at the gestures and how they work and thinking about the history of painting and how it can relate to that." —KAWS

    Making Culture


    The position of art in the 21st Century is now one of great diversity, as creative innovations across all genres have transcended traditional formats. As such, this evolution has transformed the contemporary art canon as the boundary between ‘high’ and ‘low’ forms of art have blurred. Consequentially, subcultures including that of Urban art have transitioned into becoming more distinguished art forms in their own right, whilst through collaborations with mega-brands and the fashion industry, artists are simultaneously becoming household names as their aesthetic enters into the lives of those beyond visitors to art institutions. 


    KAWS is of the most well-known and celebrated artists of our contemporary times.  With inspiration drawing from the practices and legacies of Andy Warhol, Takashi Murakami and Jeff Koons, KAWS’s practice follows in the footsteps of Pop Art. In combining his cartoonish aesthetic with pop culture references, his artworks resonate with a universal audience, however as praised by art critic Michael Auping:

    "KAWS is not just referring to pop culture, he is making it." —Michael Auping

    KAWS and his signature XX logo



    Following his graduation from the School of Visual Arts in New York, a renowned art and design college, the artist worked for Jumbo Pictures as an animator painting backgrounds for Disney’s animated series. His desire to create was greater than this job offered, and inspired by urban artists including Barry McGee, KAWS, in the early 1990s, embarked upon developing his bright, graphic aesthetic that is now instantly recognisable across the globe as the artist’s own. Within this development of his oeuvre, KAWS began marking his character’s eyes with double X’s. Alongside his representations of cartoon-like skull heads, this 'XX' motif has since become the artist’s most iconic, introduced across his multidisciplinary practice.  Indeed, his X-d eyed characters have permeated our contemporary culture as although his playful and energetic works are shown and held in the collections of prestigious institutions across the world, including that of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, and the Brooklyn Museum, KAWS’s thoughtful compositions do not alienate his expansive fan base and his influential reputation has been established both with within and outside the realms of the art world. 


    Gerhard Richter, Lilak, 1982. Collection of Foundation Louis Vuitton, Paris, France. © Gerhard Richter. Photo © Fondation Louis Vuitton / Marc Domage



    Painted in 2017, UNTITLED is a compelling work by KAWS, demonstrating the artist’s masterful ability to combine his trademark ‘XX’ motif with abstract aesthetics. For UNTITLED, KAWS chose a circular canvas over a traditional rectangular canvas, adding rich colours in a manner that seemingly resembles a multicoloured jungle. The present painting showcases to the viewer the outcome of KAWS’s experimentations with canvases of various shapes, as the canvases’ saturated colours and bold lines appear to protrude off the wall with a sphere-like three-dimensionality. UNTITLED further stimulates the viewer’s perception through the lively lines that congregate in a graphic manner that hypnotically draws us in. Hand-painted stroke by stroke by the artist in his studio, the black lines that contrast the more vibrant tones are exquisitely flawless in their execution, displaying a fluency of KAWS’s skills and technique that the artist has honed over many years. The colourful background of UNTITLED shows how KAWS is able to switch his focus from two-dimensional blocks of colour to the multi-coloured geometric lines, and the addition of the artist’s universally recognised ‘XX’ motif both adheres well to the abstract context whilst simultaneously personifying the entire composition. UNTITLED is an striking work of KAWS, presenting to the viewer the artist’s impressionable visual language that has vehemently established his position as one of the most prominent and forward-looking artists of our present age.

    • Provenance

      Galerie Perrotin, Hong Kong
      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..17' on the reverse
acrylic on canvas
diameter 213 cm. (83 in.)
Painted in 2017.

Full Cataloguing

HK$3,000,000 - 5,000,000 

Sold for HK$4,788,000

Contact Specialist

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

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

Hong Kong Auction 3 December 2020