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KAWS is an American artist and designer, known for his toys, prints and virtual reality works that parody well-known cartoon and cultural characters. Famed for his signature set of cartoon-like characters, which parody well-known cultural icons such as Disney’s Mickey Mouse, KAWS operates at the interface between the commercial and fine art worlds, and is often compared to the likes of Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons.
The KAWS Album © KAWS 2005
When THE KAWS ALBUM was carried into Sotheby’s NIGOLDENEYE® Vol.1 auction in Hong Kong on 1 April 2019, spectators grabbed their phones to document auction history in the making. Bidding started at HK$5 million and a battle quickly unfolded in the saleroom and over the telephones. The painting eventually sold for almost 15 times its high estimate, smashing the previous auction record set for KAWS only a year before.
THE KAWS ALBUM – a parody of The Beatles’ 1967 Sgt. Pepper album cover but featuring KAWS’s signature Kimpsons characters – was formerly owned by Japanese fashion designer, DJ and entrepreneur NIGO®, a long-time collector and collaborator of KAWS. His collection of street art and collectables achieved no fewer than three ‘white glove’ 100%-sold auctions at Sotheby’s in just five years.
Untitled (Kimpsons #1) © KAWS 2004
Standing almost nine feet tall, UNTITLED (KIMPSONS #1) is the largest of KAWS’s Kimpsons painting – immortalising the iconic Simpsons couch gag on a monumental scale.
KAWS first began creating the Kimpsons works in 2001 and they were his first formal paintings on canvas, bridging the gap between fine art, pop culture and parody. UNTITLED (KIMPSONS #1) was one in a series of Kimpsons paintings commissioned by NIGO® (who also owned the painting at #1 in this list). It belonged to a new owner by the time it was offered in Sotheby’s Hong Kong Contemporary Art Evening Sale on 6 October 2019, but still soared past its low estimate.
image © Phillips / The Walk Home © KAWS 2012
An unexpected highlight of Phillips’ 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale, The Walk Home sold for nearly ten times its low estimate on 16 May 2019 in New York. In this work, a reimagined SpongeBob SquarePants with KAWS’ signature x-crossed eyes – whom the artist calls Kawsbob – screams among dozens of disembodied arms. “SpongeBob was something I wanted to do because graphically I love the shapes… But honestly, I’ve never even watched it,” KAWS has admitted.
In The Woods © KAWS 2002