KAWS - 20th c. & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Afternoon Session New York Thursday, July 2, 2020 | Phillips

Create your first list.

Select an existing list or create a new list to share and manage lots you follow.

  • Essay


    Created during the breakout years of KAWS’s swift rise to fame, SMALL KM LANDSCAPE, 2001  is a seminal work marking an important transition in the artist’s career. As his first series made exclusively on canvas, KAWS’s landscape paintings represent a significant step from his beginnings as a graffiti artist towards his integration into the commercial art world. This year also marks KAW’s first solo exhibition in Tokyo, where he debuted his trademarked KIMPSONS characters like those featured in the present lot. Since this moment in the early 2000s, KAWS has continually challenged established distinctions between “high” and “low” art, taking inspiration from both art history and popular culture.

    Synonymous with the middle-class American lifestyle, The Simpsons explores the lives of a relatively mediocre family mischievously navigating through suburban life. Acknowledging the universal infatuation with these less than inspirational figures, KAWS pointedly noted, “I found it weird how infused a cartoon could become in people’s lives; the impact it could have, compared to, like, regular politics.”
    [i] Decidedly honing in on this established, consumer-friendly subject matter, KAWS integrated his anarchic renderings of inflated crossbones and X-eyes on his appropriations of these beloved characters, renaming them THE KIMPSONS and making them distinctly his own.


    Vincent Van Gough, Wheat Field with Cypresses, 1889. The National Gallery, London. 



    In SMALL KM LANDSCAPE, KAWS disrupts the visual understanding of his subject using both abstraction and dramatic re-contextualization. The only painting from the five works that make up this series to feature multiple Simpsons characters in a single composition, the present work utilizes careful circumscription to illustrate only the tops of Krusty the Clown and Marge’s heads, resulting in an animated landscape that recalls the naturalistic elements of traditional landscape painting, such as those found in Vincent van Gogh’s A Wheat Field with Cypresses. Despite seeing a condensed cropping of the composition in an unlikely context, the viewer instantly recognizes Marge’s iconic blue up-do and Krusty the Clown’s sparse eccentric locks. The puffed crossbones that protrude from Krusty’s head, signature to KAWS’s now ubiquitous visual lexicon, further the painting’s unanimous resonance. Doubling as mountaintops, bushes and trees and painted with sophisticated precision, this work functions as a hybrid between mass-marketed pop-culture and the realistic documentation of our natural surroundings, demonstrating the extent to which fabricated cartoons have been integrated into the daily life of modern society.

    As SMALL KM LANDSCAPE exudes wit and controversy – simultaneously paying homage to and mocking the established, formal components of art history – it is supremely representative of KAWS’s original mission to create universal content that encourages all to interact with and relate to his work.

     [i] KAWS, quoted in Monica Ramirez-Montagut, KAWS 1993-2010, New York, 2010, p. 126.
    • Provenance

      Gering & López Gallery, New York
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Literature

      Monica Ramirez-Montagut, KAWS 1993-2010, New York, 2010, p. 15 (illustrated)

    • 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, titled and dated "KAWS..2001 SMALL KM LANDSCAPE" on the reverse
acrylic on canvas
48 x 48 in. (121.9 x 121.9 cm)
Painted in 2001.

Full Cataloguing

$180,000 - 250,000 

Sold for $250,000

Contact Specialist

Rebekah Bowling
Head of Day Sale, Afternoon Session
New York

1 212 940 1250

20th c. & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Afternoon Session

New York Auction 2 July 2020