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  • Provenance

    Honor Fraser, Los Angeles
    Private Collection, New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, KAWS @ PAFA, October 12, 2013 - January 5, 2014

  • Catalogue Essay

    "You just understand that people come with their own backgrounds and their own history and are going to make what they want of the work they see. It’s not like I’m trying to reach a certain person or deliver a certain message. It’s not something you can control, and it’s not something I want to control." KAWS

    Deftly operating at the intersection of street art and commercialism with a decidedly Pop sensibility, KAWS’s body of work has become titanic in its own right. Possessing a disenchanted humor within a discerning graphic language, his larger-than-life subjects are gutsy, vibrant and mischievous—and instantly recognizable, with their tell-tale X icons. In the present lot NYT, we enter a window into an unusual visual landscape and glimpse a scene in which a warped SpongeBob SquarePants has forcefully pressed his face upon the glass before us. While we are seeing only a bulbous nose and hints of the eyes and lips, the cultural immediacy of the Nickelodeon giant and the distinct iconography of KAWS’s X covered-eyes render the work immediately identifiable and yet startlingly awry.

    The sinister motif of the X adopted by KAWS allows each of his cartoon characters to undergo a sardonic mutation. His use of acrylic paint can be traced back to his beginnings in animation for Jumbo Pictures and painting the scenes for the live-action 101 Dalmations in 1996. In the present lot, SpongeBob’s iconic yellow has been traded for a bright indigo blue, with purple lips and contrasting neon eyes, yet he is still familiar to a media-savvy audience. Of his propensity to represent SpongeBob, who appears throughout his works, KAWS has explained, “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. But honestly, when I’m painting SpongeBob, I’m not thinking, Oh, I loved this episode. Honestly, I’ve never even watched it” (T. Maguire, “KAWS,” Interview, May 2010). The cleverly-named KAWSBOB series, of which the present lot is quintessential, continues to challenge our perceptions about how artists and their avenues of production can both represent the effects of mass media and still turn it on its own head.

  • Artist Biography


    American • 1974

    KAWS (b. 1974, Jersey City, New Jersey; lives and works in Brooklyn, New York) is renowned for his prolific body of work that straddles the worlds of art and design to include paintings, murals, graphic and product design, street art, and large-scale sculptures. Over the last two decades KAWS has built a successful career with work that consistently shows his formal agility as an artist, as well as his underlying wit, irreverence, and affection for our times. His refined graphic language revitalizes figuration with both big, bold gestures and playful intricacies.  

    KAWS often appropriates and draws inspiration from pop culture animations, forming a unique artistic vocabulary across mediums. Admired for his larger-than-life sculptures and hardedge paintings that emphasize line and color, KAWS’s cast of hybrid cartoon characters are the strongest examples of his exploration of humanity. As seen in his collaborations with global brands, the artist’s imagery possesses a sophisticated humor and reveals a thoughtful interplay with consumer products. With their broad appeal, KAWS’s artworks are highly sought-after by collectors inside and outside of the art world, establishing him as a uniquely prominent artist and influence in today’s culture.  

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acrylic on canvas
48 x 42 in. (121.9 x 106.7 cm)
Signed and dated "KAWS 13" on the reverse.

$150,000 - 200,000 

Sold for $161,000

Contact Specialist
Rebekah Bowling
Head of Sale
New York
+ 1 212 940 1250

New Now Evening Sale

New York Auction 29 February 2016 6pm