KAWS - Contemporary Art & Design Evening Sale New York Thursday, March 6, 2014 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Paris
    Private Collection

  • Catalogue Essay

    Brooklyn-based artist KAWS re-appropriates bits of popular culture and transforms them into eye catching iconic paintings. His cartoon-like characters, recognizable to the media savvy public, undergo a sardonic set of alterations. The present lot depicts the popular children’s cartoon character, SpongeBob SquarePants. KAWS explains, “I started doing SpongeBob paintings for Pharrell. Then I started doing smaller paintings, which got much more abstract. And SpongeBob was something I wanted to do because graphically I love the shapes.” (KAWS in conversation with Toby Maguire, Interview Magazine, May 2010) SpongeBob, stripped of his bright yellow hue, is still recognizable to his adoring public, despite being shaded in a matte red tint. Only his bulging eyes with KAWS’ signature x’s, protruding nose, and two buck teeth are retained. Closely cropped, he has an air of unease, immediately identifiable, yet strangely amiss. Beginning his career in the graffiti technique, KAWS has honed in on the Pop Art tradition. Referencing Warhol, Wesselmann and Oldenburg as his early influencers, he repeats cartoon images infused with his own artistic citations. As he said, “For me, all my work is personal. It is an accumulation of things that create my art. I am who I am, and I’ve never said to myself that I would become a famous graffiti artist or a famous painter. I just painted on the outside and I’m doing it inside.” (KAWS in conversation with Romain Daubriac, KAWS: XX, Clark Magazine #45, November/December 2010) Through the modification of commonplace ads and the reinterpretation of commercially popular cartoon characters, KAWS has created his own world by forging a complicated path between Pop Art, graffiti and abstraction.

  • 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



acrylic on canvas
72 x 72 in. (182.9 x 182.9 cm.)
Signed "KAWS 11 09" on the reverse.

$180,000 - 250,000 

Sold for $257,000

Contact Specialist
Zach Miner, Contemporary
Head of Sale zminer@phillips.com
+1 212 940 1256

Alex Heminway, Design
+ 1 212 940 1268

Contemporary Art & Design Evening Sale

New York Evening Sale 6 March 2014 7pm