KAWS - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale London Thursday, March 8, 2018 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Honor Fraser, Los Angeles
    Private Collection, Europe
    Phillips, London, 15 October 2014, lot 47
    Private Collection, Hong Kong (acquired at the above sale)
    Private Collection, New York

  • Exhibited

    Paris, Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, KAWS: Pay the Debt to Nature, 6 November - 23 December 2010 (another example exhibited)
    Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, KAWS @ PAFA, 12 October 2013 - 5 January 2014 (another example exhibited)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Brooklyn-based artist KAWS re-appropriates bits of popular culture and transforms them into eye catching iconic sculptures and paintings. His cartoon characters, recognizable to the media savvy public, undergo a sardonic set of alterations. Beginning his career in New York, he initiated his ‘forced collaborations’ by marking up fashion advertisements found in New York City phone booths, adding his own signature motifs to already existing photographic imagery and eventually expanding his practice to paintings and sculptures of varying sizes.

    The present lot, Accomplice from 2010 stands at a towering height in a childlike pink hue and is skilfully accented with KAWS’ iconic white gloves and signature ‘X’ eyes. Drawing reference to a pink Bugs Bunny, he also adorned the figure with a white bib, bow and cotton ball tail. Though visually charming and simplistic, the process behind fabricating Accomplice is in fact quite complex, as he must translate his vision in the round, working in 3D modelling software. Beginning as table top toys, KAWS explains that to him, toys were a way to enter into sculpture practice and, as he comments, ‘the only way I could see my work three-dimensionally.’ (KAWS, quoted in Kathryn Branch, ‘The KAWS Effect,’ T Magazine, 7 June 2011) Blown up to life-size scale, the present lot playfully draws upon a connection to the art historical tradition of figurative sculpture, beginning with Egyptian sarcophagi. The resulting sculpture is an adult-sized toy, injecting humour into more mature notions of life and death as signified by the ancient symbols it recalls. The sculptural characters KAWS creates fuse childhood whimsy with a melancholic twist, as in the present lot, a beloved childhood cartoon suspiciously titled Accomplice.

  • 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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fibreglass resin and rubberised paint
305 x 121 x 63 cm (120 1/8 x 47 5/8 x 24 3/4 in.)
Executed in 2010, this work is number 3 from an edition of 3 plus 1 artist's proof.

£300,000 - 500,000 

Sold for £669,000

Contact Specialist
Tamila Kerimova
Specialist, Head of Day Sale
+ 44 20 7318 4065

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale

London Auction 9 March 2018