KAWS - 20th C. & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Afternoon Session New York Wednesday, November 13, 2019 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Perrotin, Paris
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    Seated with eyes covered, head resting in hands, COMPANION (PASSING THROUGH), 2011, captures KAWS’ signature COMPANION figure in an isolated state of introspection. Conjuring a myriad of emotions ranging from sadness, to fatigue, to complete overwhelm, the figure’s familiar posture invites empathy from its viewers.

    KAWS created his first COMPANION figure in 1999 as a small-scale figurine and, over the next two decades, this character has become a cornerstone of his celebrated oeuvre. Inspired by the enduring celebrity of the iconic cartoon character, Mickey Mouse, COMPANION is replete with white gloves, shorts with buttons, and globular cartoon-shoes. Yet in quintessential KAWS fashion, the artist has replaced Mickey’s head with his signature skull with X’ed out eyes. Of his COMPANIONS, KAWS explains, “Even though I use a comic language, my figures are not always reflecting the idealistic cartoon view that I grew up on… COMPANION is more real in dealing with contemporary human circumstances” (KAWS, quoted in KAWS: WHERE THE END STARTS, exh. cat., Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Fort Worth, 2016, p. 5). Equally personal as it is universal, somber as it is playful, COMPANION (PASSING THROUGH) is a poignant reflection of the modern-day human condition, inviting viewers to ponder the fragility of personal circumstances and the universality of emotion.

    In COMPANION (PASSING THROUGH), KAWS astutely bridges the gap between popular culture and fine art, paying homage to a rich lineage of art historical predecessors. While establishing an instantly recognizable visual lexicon that is uniquely his own, the figure’s seated, contemplative posture is reminiscent of August Rodin’s The Thinker, 1903. Like Rodin’s figure, COMPANION seems lost in thought, introspectively contemplating the very circumstances of his own being. KAWS also cites Jeff Koons and Claes Oldenburg as his artistic idols, whose playful sculptures equally oscillate between kitsch and high art. In recent years, KAWS has claimed his own position amongst the most ambitious and celebrated sculptors of the contemporary age, with works such as COMPANION (PASSING THROUGH) standing as a testament to the strength and breadth of his cultural influence.

  • 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, numbered and dated "KAWS..11 #8/10" on the underside of the figure's left foot
painted bronze
47 1/8 x 31 3/8 x 28 in. (119.7 x 79.7 x 71.1 cm.)
Executed in 2011, this work is number 8 from an edition of 10 plus 2 artist's proofs and is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity signed by the artist.

$300,000 - 400,000 

Sold for $836,000

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 13 November 2019