KAWS - Disruptors: Evening Sale of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Design and Watches Hong Kong Thursday, May 25, 2023 | Phillips

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  • KAWS, the celebrated contemporary artist, has left an indelible mark on the art world with his ground-breaking fusion of pop culture and fine art. His iconic sculptures, paintings, and prints have garnered a worldwide following and cemented his place as one of the most influential artists of our generation.


    Through an uncompromising irreverence towards traditional art forms, KAWS has redefined what it means to be a contemporary artist, challenging the status quo and pushing boundaries with his bold and provocative creations. His ability to blur the lines between high and low art has earned him a reputation as a true disruptor, inspiring a new wave of artists to break free from traditional norms and embrace the ever-evolving world of art.



    Installation view of the present work, Arata Isozaki ‘Obscured Horizon’, Courtesy Jerry and Eba Sohn Residence, Joshua Tree, California
    Photograph by Josh White.


    The present work is the product of a remarkable interaction with curators Paris Murray Celant, Dr. Cornelia Lauf and the artist, dating back to 2016. Moved by the captivating force of KAWS’ art, they approached him to translate one of his potential works into production. The original painting burst with vibrant joy that seemed to glow with an otherworldly energy. Yet, despite its seeming simplicity, the painting's creation required a masterful skill that defies the very medium it was destined for. This striking contradiction was precisely what the curators craved - a challenge to the notion of the industrial readymade, and a radical leap forward to preserve the value of artisanal practice in an era dominated by virtual and industrial techniques. In collaboration with highly skilled artisans in Afghanistan, the carpet is produced by Christopher Farr, the revered textile designer whose collections became known as the catalyst that revolutionised contemporary rug design and restored rug-making to the status of fine art.


    As the line between art and design becomes increasingly enigmatic, the use of rugs is emerging as fertile turf for cross-disciplinary collaboration, as shown by forays by contemporary artists like Jonas Wood and Christopher Wool.




    Jonas Wood, Green Pattern Rug, 2018

    The resulting work’s diameter is a graphically striking composition rendered in brilliant chromatic hues that compete with one another for dominance but ultimately submit to a frenzied pandemonium, tempered by the essential spirituality of the circle. Further concentric circles add to the voluminous depth of the composition, where cartoon eyes pierced by KAWS’ signature ‘XX’ motif overlap and amalgamate.


    Adept at subverting and refashioning the familiar in pop culture, KAWS has always tended to cartoon as a means of highlighting the inherent malleability of cultural symbols. Despite being rooted in their source imagery, the artist’s works are not appropriations of specific animated cartoon narratives but rather form broader dialogues of universal human emotions. Of his practice, KAWS has commented, 'even though I use a comic language, my figures are not always reflecting the idealistic cartoon view that I grew up on, where everything has a happy ending' i.


    Showcasing his instantly identifiable aesthetic that straddles both traditional illustration and expressive abstraction, the present work is a compelling example from the artist’s celebrated tondo series. Deriving from the Italian rotondo, or ‘round’, the Renaissance term ‘tondo’ refers to a circular work of art that historically allowed painters to emphasise the centre of an image by containing a scene within a frame, thereby separating it from its environment.


    Collector’s Digest


    “KAWS is not just referring to Pop culture, he is making it.”
    —Michael Auping


    • Considered as one of the most iconic and forward-thinking artists of his generation, KAWS is celebrated for his multi-disciplinary practice that subverts the traditions of fine art with street art influences, satirising consumer culture.

    • 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, most recently with 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.

    • Other recent solo exhibitions also include the Mori Arts Centre in Tokyo (16 July – 11 October 2021), and a retrospective at the National Gallery of Victoria, Australia (2019-2020).


    i KAWS, quoted in KAWS: WHERE THE END STARTS, exh. cat., Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Fort Worth, 2016, p. 5


    • Provenance

      Gifted by the artist to 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



hand-knotted Afghan handspun wool
diameter 243.8 cm. (96 in.)
Produced by Christopher Farr Inc., London and Los Angeles in 2016-2021, this work is artist's proof 3 from an edition of 1 plus 3 artist's proofs. This work is accompanied by 2 certificates of authenticity signed by the artist and issued by the artist's studio and Christopher Farr Inc. respectively.

Full Cataloguing

HK$500,000 - 700,000 

Sold for HK$419,100

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Disruptors: Evening Sale of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Design and Watches

Hong Kong Auction 25 May 2023