KAWS - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Afternoon Session New York Tuesday, May 16, 2023 | Phillips
  • Executed in 2012, T.N.O.N-Y and T.N.O.N-F are two monumental examples that showcase KAWS’s iconic imagery of subverted and altered cartoonlike characters drawn from popular culture. By abstracting his subjects to such a degree that renders them nearly unrecognizable, the artist’s immediately identifiable interventions have drawn comparisons to the works of 20th century masters such as Ellsworth Kelly, Kenneth Noland and Frank Stella. Oscillating between the ostensibly fixed antagonistic traditions of Pop Art and geometric abstraction, KAWS brilliantly revitalizes the fields of both figuration and abstraction to interrogate our relationship with consumerism, advertising and pop culture.


    The present works form part of his discrete 2012 series of 50 vertical canvases titled THE NATURE OF NEED. Pulling the viewer’s eye in several directions, this chapter of KAWS’s oeuvre is defined by its Baroque palette of dramatic black juxtaposed with bright hues, marking a palpable shift in the artist’s practice. In THE NATURE OF NEED, KAWS contorted fragments of the facial features of SpongeBob SquarePants and experimented with reducing them to their barest expressions. Forcing the viewer to both take in the series in its entirety and examine the intricacies of each individual panel, KAWS tapped into the Pop Art tradition of seriality and variation. This series was thus a way for KAWS to simultaneously echo ideas put forth by his predecessors while making his own playful mark on the genre.


    T.N.O.N-Y and T.N.O.N-F are characterized by hyper-zoomed-in lines that vaguely portray an eye, a nose, a mouth or a tooth. By inflating the scale to such a degree, a fresh personality is given to these once familiar forms, affirming the robust conceptual backbone of transformation in KAWS’s work. As meaning is increasingly stripped from and assigned to logotypes at a disorienting rate, KAWS’ T.N.O.N-Y and T.N.O.N-F paintings push viewers to consider the manipulation, representation and consumption of media in the contemporary landscape.

    • Provenance

      Perrotin, Hong Kong
      Private Collection (acquired from the above)
      Phillips, New York, March 9, 2022, lot 32
      Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Hong Kong, Perrotin, KAWS: The Nature of Need, May 15–June 30, 2012

    • 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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Two works: (i) T.N.O.N.-Y; (ii) T.N.O.N.-F

(i) signed, titled and dated "KAWS..12 T.N.O.N.-Y" on the reverse of the center panel; titled "T.N.O.N.-Y" on the reverse of the left panel
(ii) signed, titled and dated "KAWS..12 T.N.O.N.-F" on the reverse of the right panel

acrylic on canvas
each 84 x 12 in. (213.4 x 30.5 cm)
installation dimensions approximately 84 x 52 in. (213.4 x 132.1 cm)

Painted in 2012.

Full Cataloguing

$150,000 - 200,000 

Sold for $152,400

Contact Specialist

Patrizia Koenig
Specialist, Head of Sale, Afternoon Session
+1 212 940 1279

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Afternoon Session

New York Auction 16 May 2023