KAWS - New Now London Thursday, December 12, 2019 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    V1 Gallery, Copenhagen
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    ‘I always feel like there’s a story with images and with the characters. Icons like Mickey, the Simpsons, the Michelin Man, and SpongeBob exist in a universal way that you forget their origin or even their narrative, and you just recognize them from the slightest glimpse of their image or sound’ – KAWS

    Over the last few years, KAWS’ rise within the realms of contemporary art and mainstream culture has been meteoric and continuous. Recognised as one of the most relevant creators of our generation, he has stunned the public, critics and institutions alike, by consistently cutting into the audience’s visual and cultural unconscious. To crown his spectacular ascent, the artist – who was born Brian Donnelly and initially worked as a graffiti artist in New Jersey – is currently preparing for his first institutional New York solo show, slated for 2021 at the Brooklyn Museum. ‘My trajectory has been from the bottom up’, he has mused (KAWS, quoted in Ted Loos, ‘XX Marks the Spot: KAWS Goes Global’, The New York Times, 15 May 2019, online). Executed in 2001, the present work posits as a first reveal to KAWS’ rising star at the dawn of the millennium.

    In Untitled, KAWS delineates a famed character whose cartoon figure is embedded in the economy of commercial iconography. The Michelin Man – who posits as the official mascot for the eponymous tyre company – eludes KAWS’ usual roster of cartoon characters drawn from comic strips. Here it is a capitalist symbol which undergoes KAWS’ idiosyncratic painterly treatment and transformation; the Michelin Man is characteristically rendered with the artist’s careful strokes and crossed-out eyes, captured from and enigmatically close angle and represented in an incongruous palette of orange and black paint. The overall result stands both close and far from the source character’s original rendition; it only captures a few lines of the mascot’s face, discernible as the Michelin’s in their likeness to other KAWS compositions of the same subject. In devising a novel artistic language that obstructs immediate intelligibility, Untitled perfectly captures KAWS’s ability to transform emblematic fictitious characters into uniquely hybrid creations, at once alien and familiar.

  • 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.  

    View More Works



signed and dated 'KAWS ,, 2001' on the reverse
acrylic on canvas in blister package with printed card
59.5 x 48.8 x 7.5 cm (23 3/8 x 19 1/4 x 2 7/8 in.)
Executed in 2001.

£60,000 - 80,000 

Sold for £225,000

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

New Now

London Auction 12 December 2019