KAWS - 20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale in Association with Poly Auction Hong Kong Sunday, November 28, 2021 | Phillips
  • KAWS is an important artist on the contemporary art scene that cannot be ignored. His works are not only influenced by cartoon, street and graffiti elements of contemporary pop culture, but also influenced by the creative and commercial collaborations of contemporary pop and street artists such as Andy Warhol, Keith Haring and Jeff Koons – all of whom assumably inspired the creations of his career. On the streets of New York City in the 90s, KAWS started to rework bus stop and phonebooth posters before placing them back on the street when completed. It was the act of intervention on these advertising posters that allowed the most important and representative images of KAWS to come alive, such as COMPANION, BENDY and the artist’s signature ‘XX’ motif.  



    The artist with Untitled (DKNY)  in New York, 1997
    © KAWS


    The importance of animation as an inspiration for KAWS’ works are shown in images such as COMPANION and BENDY. Since the 90’s, KAWS has been using well-known cartoon characters in his paintings. The characters in UNTITLED have round eyes, freckle-like brush strokes on their faces, downward-facing mouths and bulging noses, giving them an expressive look. Though the cartoon characters are not shown in their entirety in UNTITLED, the large, round eyes, freckles and bulging noses are a few familiar symbols that immediately remind us of iconic cartoon characters. As KAWS once said, ‘I don’t speak Japanese, so it’s very difficult for me to communicate through language, but I can go out on the street and look at all the Simpsons merchandise for sale in the shops. It’s like, ‘You know Homer and I know Homer. We may not talk about it because we speak different languages, but for us, Homer means the same thing’.’  KAWS’ creations are full of the mark of the times, as he puts his own era-specific cartoon creations into his work and adds his iconic symbolism to them. Since 2010, KAWS has been incorporating circular tondo paintings into his work, the history of which dates back to the Renaissance. Compared to a square canvas, a round canvas allows the viewer to focus on the centre of the work, giving a more direct and powerful representation of the subject. The use of a circular canvas in UNTITLED enhances the facial appearances and features of the animated figures, allowing the viewer to perceive the emotions of the characters strongly. The cute, flat-jawed figure in UNTITLED brings a sense of lightness and humour to the work. UNTITLED gives the audience the freedom to perceive and release their own emotions. In a fast-paced and accelerated contemporary society, people are always projecting themselves positively on the surface, while suppressing the stress and negative emotions they face in life and work.  Through observing KAWS' work, emotions that may not be perfect and positive were released in the creation of KAWS. The intense and stressed emotions buried in the inner heart finds a way out, and that is why works of KAWS are filled with soothing and healing effect in this hustle and bustle modern world.



    Shape, background patternDescription automatically generated
    Andy Warhol, Quadrant Mickey Mouse, 1981
    © 2021 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York 



    • Provenance

      Private Collection, Asia
      Private Collection, China
      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.  

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signed and dated 'KAWS.. 10' on the reverse
acrylic on canvas
diameter 150 cm. (60 in.)
Painted in 2010.

Full Cataloguing

HK$2,200,000 - 3,200,000 

Sold for HK$3,276,000

Contact Specialist

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

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

Hong Kong Auction 29 November 2021