His work is reaching the forefront of the arts worldHis giant inflatables have been seen in a lake in Seoul and also the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, his characters are featured the front of T-shirts. the paintings are sold for eight-figure sums at auction
Brian Donnelly (b. 1974) was a student of Illustration in the School of Visual Arts in New York. Before becoming successful as an artist, he was employed as a background painter for animated series like the Disney series 101 Dalmations, and cult shows like Daria as well as Doug.
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At a young age, Donnelly was well-known for his signatures on structures in New Jersey and Manhattan with “KAWS,” a name that he picked because he liked the way the letters appeared together. He quickly moved away from this tag however, and created an original style, which involved the use of cartoon characters in bus shelter ads.
Then, he would recreate his early work of’subvertising his work’ in a series screenprint prints called lithographs. The series included mock Calvin Klein ad, featuring the model Christy Turlington being embraced by an emerald green character.
His roots in graffiti led to his work being seen by an array of people, most of them had nothing to have anything to do with art. Like many artist, KAWS did not start out as a gallery artist; He was well aware of the advantages of displaying his work on the streets and mass-producing his work in order to establish an following. The following grew to the point that it drew interest from collectors as well as critics.
When asked about his beginnings being a graffiti artist Donnelly told me, “When I was creating graffiti, my entire thought was “I only want to be alive.” I’d like to be part of this visual language all over every corner of this world… The idea was absolutely nothing for me to create artwork if it wasn’t affecting people.’
In 1999, KAWS traveled to Japan following an invitation from Bounty Hunter, the cult toy and streetwear label. He went on to make his first product”COMPANION”.
The toys were produced in an quantity that was limited to 500 units, toys went quickly, and COMPANION became a frequent character in KAWS the company’s work.
While KAWS was popular in the 2000s, the year 2019 Artnet Intelligence Report shows that his average price for sale nearly tripled from $42,272 to $82,063. In November of 2018 five KAWS items were sold for over $1 million. Over the entire year, his work was worth more than $33.8 million in auction.
KAWS The success of KAWS in social media is a major factor in his rise to the top of contemporary art. As of the writing, over 9000 posts with the hashtag #kaws were published on Instagram in comparison to 300,000 posts for Jeff Koons and 192,000 for Damien Hirst. Some experts have suggested that this might be due on the reason that his distinctive Pop-art style is reproduced perfectly online, however this popularity could also be due to KAWS his origins as street artist.
The the curator, art historian and artist Michael Auping as ‘[Clement] Greenberg’s worst nightmare’ KAWS is regarded as the most infamous in his time in the New York art world. A lot of people have drawn comparisons with Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring who’s distinctive styles were born on the streets and were compared to Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons who had a keen understanding of the possibilities for artwork in the age of reproduction by mechanical means.
KAWS has identified the influences he has influenced, and they range from Claes Oldenburg to Tom Wesselman to Takashi Murakami and the latter in terms of the concept he defines as ‘acceptance and crossovers’.
“No cartoon is immune from being consumed and transformed into KAWS according to Christie’s specialist associate Noah Davis. The artist is renowned for subverting famous cartoon heroes and, in doing so, shows his appreciation for their universal significance and proving that there is no distinction between the concepts of ‘high’ or ‘low art.
In 2012, a KAWS COMPANION balloon was seen floating through the city streets in Manhattan in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, its eyes were covered with huge gloved hands. The appearance of the balloon alongside characters such as Mickey Mouse and Sonic the Hedgehog proved KAWS its ability to transform artwork into an event suitable for the masses.
After creating his own fashion label, Original Fake, in the beginning of 2000, KAWS began working with several cult streetwear labels, such as Bathing Ape and Supreme. In 2008, he created the cover of Kanye West’s highly acclaimed album 808s and Heartbreak and in recent times, he’s designed his own pair Nike Air Jordans.
In the year 2019, Paris Fashion Week saw Dior designer Kim Jones debut his Spring/Summer 2019 collection featuring the KAWS version of the house’s iconic bee design. The collection was set against the 33-ft high rose flower sculpture. It is KAWS’s “BFF The character was recreated as a limited edition toy that comes in the shape of a mini Dior suit.
KAWS has collaborated together with Campana brothers to create a line of furniture that is covered in soft toys. It was launched during Art Basel Miami and was quickly purchased by Travis Scott and Kylie Jenner.
KAWS has joined forces with NIGO who was originally of Bathing Ape fame and now the director of Uniqlo’s life-wear UT collection. The latest collection he has with the Japanese brand is a redrawing of iconic Sesame Street characters on a assortment of sweatshirts, T-shirts and hoodies as well as toys. Each item is priced at less than $50. each piece is branded with the tagline”You’re never too old to be on street life’.
However, the November Post-War as well as Contemporary Art Evening Sale at Christie’s in New York saw KAWS’ CHUM, his painting of 2012 (KCB7) sold at $2,412,500, nearly five times the price of its estimate.