KAWS: WHAT PARTY, opening on 12 February 2021, will survey 25 years of art by KAWS and offer visitors a chance to buy new works in the artist’s pop-up shop. The Brooklyn Museum is New York’s first art institution to present a KAWS retrospective.
Brian Donnelly first adopted the name ‘KAWS’ as a graffiti artist in New Jersey and Manhattan. Starting his career as an animation background artist by day and a street artist by night, KAWS was quickly noticed for his ‘subvertising’ graffiti drawn over famous brands like Calvin Klein. After a visit to Japan in 1999, he created his first toy, COMPANION, which has now become one of his most recognisable motifs.
The Brooklyn Museum exhibition will present rarely seen graffiti drawings and notebooks from this early period, as well as the toys and small collectables that brought KAWS to a wider audience. There will be a section dedicated to his paintings appropriating characters from American cartoons, such as the KIMPSONS and KAWSBOB, and another section focussing on his partnership with fashion brands and commercial designers. An augmented reality app, created in collaboration with Acute Art, will allow visitors to make their own experience of KAWS’s art through their smartphones and share it with people around the world.
The Brooklyn Museum exhibition will also include an integrated shop where visitors can purchase KAWS’s products. The demand for KAWS’s work has skyrocketed in the last two years – over 1,300 artworks were offered at auction in 2019 and over 1,800 artworks have already been offered this year so far, 65% of which have sold above their estimates. While collectors have been hesitant to offer KAWS’s record-breaking masterpieces in this uncertain period, lower-value artworks like prints and toys remain in demand.
Given his rising market, KAWS: WHAT PARTY is a strategic time to invest in the new work that the artist will bring out for the exhibition shop, or sell an existing investment to the new collectors such a blockbuster exhibition will no doubt attract.