KAWS - New Now London Wednesday, December 5, 2018 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Perrotin, New York
    Private Collection
    Private Collection, Los Angeles

  • Catalogue Essay

    ‘KAWS is not just referring to pop culture, he is making it’
    - Michael Auping, ‘America’s Cartoon Mind’ in: Exh. Cat., Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Where the End Starts, 2017, p. 63.

    A remarkable example of KAWS’s highly graphic and cartoon-infused oeuvre, the present work juxtaposes cropped and rearranged images of Snoopy, Charlie Brown’s mischievous pet beagle in Charles Schulz’s infamous Peanuts universe, forming a vibrant blue on black composition. At once instantly recognisable and stylistically unique, Untitled (MBFM8) coalesces a number of visual references that impressed upon the artist throughout his career, namely contemporary imagery, avant-garde Pop iconography brought forth by the likes of Claes Oldenburg and Tom Wesselmann, and KAWS’s very own early experimentations with graffiti. A veritable cultural cornerstone, the American artist has expanded an iconic visual language –both socially aware and self-referential– that now pervades the inner circles of the art world and popular culture alike.

    With the present work, KAWS’s formulation of a familiar iconographic sign in near-abstract terms challenges the traditional codes of both painting and popular culture. ‘What’s abstraction to somebody that knows something?’ the artist mused, ‘If you look at something but then you know what it is, is it still abstraction? You just start looking at the gestures and how they work and thinking about the history of painting and how it can relate to that’ (KAWS, in conversation with Senay Kenfe, ‘KAWS on "MAN'S BEST FRIEND" at Honor Fraser’, The Hundreds, 16 September 2014, online). A somewhat arcane figure until the early 1990s, KAWS subsequently became a key figure in contemporary discourse, unveiling the politics of mass consumption through the creation of a falsely innocent pictorial world. In truncating Snoopy’s body and ‘X-ing’ out his eyes, the artist extends this practice of subversion, challenging the immediacy with which we assume cultural references, and destabilising the valence of iconographic permanence.

    KAWS’s formal language thus balances between ‘high’ and ‘low’ art, operating within the two discrete worlds of creation and commerce. As expressed by the artist himself: ‘In the 1990s, it was put to me that you got to be commercial or you can be a fine artist. […] And now I feel like a lot of those barriers have been knocked down’ (KAWS cited in ‘Finding Narrative in Abstraction’, COBO SOCIAL, 9 April 2018). KAWS’s Untitled (MBFM8) successfully dissolves these barriers, imbuing Snoopy’s seemingly innocuous character with sardonic gravitas.

  • 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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Untitled (MBFM8)

signed and dated 'KAWS. 15' on the reverse
acrylic on canvas
122 x 122 cm (48 x 48 in.)
Executed in 2015.

£150,000 - 250,000 

Sold for £175,000

Contact Specialist
Simon Tovey
Head of Sale
+44 20 7318 4084

New Now

London Auction 5 December 2018