KAWS - Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Tuesday, October 14, 2014 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Honor Fraser, Los Angeles
    Private Collection, Europe

  • Exhibited

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

  • Catalogue Essay

    Inspired by the Pop sensibility of artists like Claes Oldenburg and Tom Wesselmann, KAWS topples traditional ideas of fine art, masterfully blurring the line between art and commerce. Born Brian Donnelly, KAWS’ career began as a teenager in the New York street art scene, where he created ‘forced collaborations’ with fashion advertisements found in phone booths, incorporating images of Christy Turlington and Kate Moss with his own signature characters. The Williamsburg-based artist claims that the pseudonym ‘KAWS’ has no special significance, although his dual identity recalls the archetypal comic book hero.

    These early graffiti experiments led the artist to Tokyo, where he embraced the growing universe of limited edition toys and clothing. In Japan, KAWS was able to explore crossover projects, allowing him to translate his singular aesthetic to a broader audience. He cites Takashi Murakami as an artist who has influenced his own practice, both in his perfectionist mentality as well as his diffusion into commercial spheres. KAWS emphasises the democratic nature of his work: ‘I just want to make stuff that no one is ever too stupid to get.’ (KAWS quoted in Cesar Pesari, Paper Magazine, November 2013).

    KAWS’ refined graphic language is the result of a meticulous process wherein he first hand draws his figures, editing them digitally in Illustrator, before eventually painting them from a projection, eventually adding his signature ‘X’ eyes. Sculptures like Accomplice require a more difficult process, as the artist must translate his vision in the round, working in 3D modelling software. When blown up to a life-sized scale, the present lot playfully draws 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.

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

£150,000 - 250,000 

Sold for £266,500

Contact Specialist
Peter Sumner
Head of Contemporary Art, London
+44 207 318 4063

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 15 October 2014 7pm