KAWS - 20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale Hong Kong Sunday, November 24, 2019 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Guy Hepner Gallery, New York
    Private Collection
    SBI Art Auction, Tokyo, 22 April 2017, Lot 301
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    KAWS is not just referring to pop culture, he is making it.” (Michael Auping, 'America’s Cartoon Mind', in Where the End Starts, exh. cat., Texas, 2017, p. 63).

    KAWS is one of the most iconic and prolific artists of our generation. An artist, collector, designer and entrepreneur with a multi-disciplinary artistic practice incorporating painting, sculpture and printmaking, his multi-faceted identity reflects the fluid nature of art, technology and contemporary popular culture. Over the years, he has created a unique visual language spanning Pop Art, abstract painting, art history and popular culture, the artist’s shaped canvasses offering a window into his graphic visual world of uncanny cartoon characters and highly abstracted compositions.

    UNTITLED cleverly utilises the circular shape of the canvas, conveying a single eye that directly confronts its viewer. This magnified perspective allows the viewer to visualise a larger character beyond the canvas, creating a presence more imposing and emotionally charged than its domestic size. His use of flat, non-hierarchical application of paint with no visible brushstrokes also instils the work with a highly graphic quality, blurring the boundaries between figuration and abstraction. With a sharp contrasting colour palette of muted grey, bold red and radioactive yellow, accompanied by KAWS’ characteristic cross over the eye alluding to drunkenness or death, the simplicity of the composition allows its colours to take the stage. Through UNTITLED, KAWS shows his innate understanding of the emotional and intellectual force of colour, eliciting undercurrents of angst, unease and even empathy in the viewer.

    Drawing inspiration from popular cartoon characters then stripping them of their familiarity through warped perspectives and abstraction KAWS’ work captures the shifting boundaries between the real and virtual, the personal and public, as he continues to work deliberately to reject the air of exclusivity surrounding art, synthesising elements of high and low culture across all areas of his work.

  • 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.. 13' on the reverse
acrylic on canvas
diameter 51 cm. (20 1/8 in.)
Painted in 2013.

HK$800,000 - 1,200,000 

Sold for HK$1,250,000

Contact Specialist
Danielle So
Associate Specialist, Head of Day Sale

20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale

Hong Kong Auction 25 November 2019