• Isaiah Lawrence

KAWS: WHAT PARTY

All the buzz about “KAWS: What Party” is not going away any time soon or perhaps, in this lifetime. Professionally known as KAWS (Brian Donnelly, born 1974 in Jersey City, New Jersey), proved that his success is not a fluke, that his longevity is not a phase, and that (for a 25-year-long art career) he is here to stay. Before KAWS became the most sought after living artist, disrupting the art world with his personal street art style, he was Brian. Brian Donnelly, known as KAWS, invites us in person and virtually to experience some of his ravishing artwork at the “Brooklyn Museum” for “Kaws: What Party.” In the museum, you will learn what influenced Brian to become KAWS and much more. Featured at the event, which will take place from February 26 to September 5, 2021, there will be over a hundred broad-ranging works, like graffiti drawings, notebooks, sculptures, paintings, and small collectibles.

KAWS What Party Figure Set” with the caption ‘11.3 X 5.1 X 3.7 IN.’ ©. 2021. All Rights Reserved.

The Brooklyn-based artist KAWS is an American artist and designer with unorthodox, figurative characters and motifs. Domestically and internationally, he has revered sculptures (ranging from a few inches high to 10 metres tall), acrylic paintings on canvas, and screen prints. His choice of materials: wood, bronze, aluminum, fiberglass, and steel pontoon inflatable raft. After being around other children in elementary school, his ambitions for art was triggered, where he would copy graffiti images onto his papers. Although his influence was neighborhood children who created graffiti work, as his techniques advanced, traditional painters (like Gerard Richter, Klaus Oldenberg, and Chuck Close) became his influence.

Kaws Gone - Blue” with the caption ‘35.6 × 38.1 × 10.2 cm.” ©. 2021. All Rights Reserved.


In 1996, he received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Illustration at the School of Visual Arts (in New York City). Shortly after graduation, he worked for “Jumbo Pictures” (which was founded by Jim Jinkins and is now defunct), contributing to comedic productions like “Doug,” “101 Dalmatians,” and the series “Daria.” Okay. Where in the flipping flapjacks did Brian come up with his artist name? Well, in 1999, when he was in his mid-twenties, he stopped by David Zwirner gallery in SoHo. That is the place where he owned his first ever artwork (which was a drawing of a housefly by Raymond Pettibon). It was an online purchase of $1,900 and he picked it up. The letters “SWAK” were written by Pettibon in the upper left corner (an acronym for ‘sealed with a kiss’), which is known as the sound of a used flyswatter. All Brian did was change the letters “SWAK” backwards, giving him his artist name, KAWS.

Silent City.” ©. 2011. All Rights Reserved.

First, after meeting his fellow artist friend, Barry McGee, he was introduced to how to unlock the ad display boards on the city’s phone booth’s. This valuable information made him an intangible force for the art world to be reckoned with. KAWS became a renown artist for designing toys (limited edition, vinyl toys, especially in Japan), making a career, interfacing between art and commercial work. When he creates, he seems to want the viewer to focus on line etchings and dominant colors, as well as reusing “x’s” on the eyes and hands. One of his most recognized work is a vinyl figure of the Disney character, Mickey Mouse (with x-ed out eyes), called, “Companion”. “Companion” was created with a Japanese company in 1999, called, “Bounty Hunter.” Other works he created are “Accomplice,” “Chum,” and “Bendy”. “Bendy,” is an admired, snake-like, Mickey Mouse looking character (with x’ed out eyes). A numerous amount of his work were painted in 2D and later in 3D. Toys are not the only thing Brian collaborates with commercially and creates designs for. He also collaborates and create designs for trendy clothing, skate decks, and more.

Accomplice” ‘305 x 121 x 63 cm (120 1/8 x 47 5/8 x 24 3/4 in.)’ © 2002. All Rights Reserved.

In 2019, KAWS showcased his tallest work yet, “KAWS: Companion,” which is a 36-meter large, inflatable sculpture in Taiwan. On April 1, 2019, on the same year, his most expensive work sold (which is a 2005 painting) called, “The Kaws Album.” The prestigious painting was expected to sell for $1 million and sold for $14.8 million at Sotheby’s in Hong Kong.

KAWS: Companion.” ©. 27, Jan. 2019. All rights Reserved. The current owner of “The Kaws Album” is Nigo (creator of ‘A Bathing Ape). In addition, the painting has the letters “Kimpsons,” with a take on “The Simpson’s The Yellow Album.” It is actually a parody of The Beatles’ 1967 album, “Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.” Characters from the American cartoon series “The Simpsons” are featured in the piece with his signature “x” marks on the eyes.

The Kaws Album” ‘01.6 by 101.6 cm; 40 by 40 in.’ ©. 2021. All Rights Reserved. KAWS work is visualized by others as the equivalent to Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring. Just like KAWS, Basquiat and Haring started their career in New York City as graffiti artists, transitioning into fine artists. Today, the works of all three artists are observed in the same galleries, often being compared. His innovative work has been seen internationally in Tokyo, Paris, London, and Berlin. He has had solo shows at the Modern Art Museum and the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, the High Museum of Art, and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. KAWS has worked with various brands in the clothing industry like Vans, Nike, and Comme des Garçons. Musicians like Swizz Beatz and Pharrell Williams prefer his work. He is an artist still alive, yet his work is before his time, making it a possibility to define the future of how art looks.

Kaws X Snoopy Peanuts Joe Kaws”, ‘8 x 4 x 5.5 in (20.32 x 10.16 x 13.97 cm).’ ©. 2021.

“KAWS: WHAT PARTY” is curated by Eugenie Tsai, and John and Barbara Vogelstein are the Senior Curators. The leadership support for the event is provided by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. Online, you can purchase your Tickets and Member Tickets. The “Brooklyn Museum is located on 200 Eastern Pkwy, Brooklyn, NY 11238. If you have any questions, call: (716) 638-5000. Brooklyn Museum Opening Hours: Thursday 11:00 A.M.-6:00 P.M. Friday 11:00 A.M.-8:00 P.M. Saturday 11:00 A.M.-8:00 P.M. Sunday 11:00 A.M.-6:00 P.M. Monday Closed Tuesday Closed Wednesday Closed Brooklyn Museum Shop: Thursday 11:00 A.M.-9:00 P.M. Friday 11:00 A.M.-8:00 P.M. Saturday 11:00 A.M.-8:00 P.M. Sunday 2:00 P.M.-6:00 P.M. Monday Closed Tuesday Closed Wednesday 11:00 A.M.-9:00 P.M.

Work Citations: Brooklyn Museum. KAWS: WHAT PARTY. 2021. Artnet. Sotheby’s Was Hoping This KAWS Painting of ‘The Simpsons’ Would Sell for $1 Million. It Just Went for $14.7 Million. 1 Apr, 2019.

1st Dibs. Kaws What Party.

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