KAWS (artist)

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For the radio station with the callsign KAWS, see CSN International.
KAWS Moonman - 2013 MTV Video Music Awards.jpg
Born Brian Donnelly
Jersey City, New Jersey
Nationality American
Education School of Visual Arts
Known for Painting, graphic design, sculpture, graffiti
KAWS exhibition 2010 in Hong Kong; the large gray sculpture is "Companion."

Brian Donnelly (born 1974), professionally known as KAWS, is a New York-based artist and designer of limited-edition toys and clothing. He currently lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.


KAWS was born Brian Donnelly in Jersey City, New Jersey.[1] He graduated from the School of Visual Arts in New York with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in illustration in 1996.[2] After graduation, KAWS briefly worked for Disney as a freelance animator painting backgrounds. He contributed to the animated series 101 Dalmatians, Daria and Doug.[3]

He began his career as a graffiti artist growing up in Jersey City. After moving to New York City in the 1990s, KAWS started subverting imagery on billboards, bus shelters and phone booth advertisements. These reworked ads were at first left alone, lasting for up to several months, but as KAWS’ popularity skyrocketed, the ads became increasingly sought after.

He has also done work in Paris, London, Berlin and Tokyo.[4]

Art and products[edit]

In 1999 KAWS began to design and produce his first limited-edition vinyl toy with the Japanese clothing brand Bounty Hunter,[5] which was an instant hit with the global art-toy collecting community. He has collaborated with other Japanese companies like A Bathing Ape, Santastic, and Medicom on further toys.[6]

More toys and later clothing were made for Original Fake, a collaborative store with Medicom Toy, in the Aoyama district of Tokyo. This venture ended on May 31, 2013 as KAWS and Medicom Toys decided to close down the Original Fake brand after almost seven years on the street-wear scene.[7]

KAWS has participated in many other commercial collaborations, including with Nigo for A Bathing Ape, Jun "Jonio" Takahashi for Undercover, Michael "Mic" Neumann for Kung Faux, and projects with Burton, Nike, Vans, Supreme and DC Shoes. There are KAWS-designed limited-edition bottles for Dos Equis and Hennessy, rugs for Gallery 1950 and packaging for Kiehl's Cosmetics.

For the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards, KAWS' company redesigned the iconic moon man statue and illustrated various magazine covers for The New Yorker, Clark Magazine and I-D. He created cover art for recording artists Towa Tei, Cherie, Clipse and Kanye West.

In 2014 he collaborated with his longtime friend Pharrell Williams on the bottle and design for the perfume "Girl" Williams had created with Commes des Garcons to celebrate his solo album of the same name.[8]

In 2016 KAWS collaborated with clothing store Uniqlo to produce a line of tees and accessories with KAWS designs that were sold for low prices. The collection sold out very quickly upon release, but was restocked a number of times.


KAWS books like C10[9] and early exhibition catalogues are rare collectors' items. In November 2009 Rizzoli published a lavish retrospective about his work written by Mónica Ramírez-Montagut, a curator at The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, which is more easily available.[10]

A variety of exhibition booklets have been published for more recent shows in Hong Kong, Malaga and the US.

Paintings, sculptures and prints[edit]

KAWS' acrylic paintings and sculpture have many repeating images, all meant to be universally understood, surpassing languages and cultures. One of KAWS' early series, Package Paintings, was made in 2000. This series, entitled The Kimpsons, subverted the famous American cartoon, The Simpsons. KAWS explains that he "found it weird how infused a cartoon could become in people's lives; the impact it could have, compared to regular politics."[3] In addition, KAWS has reworked other familiar icons such as Mickey Mouse, the Michelin Man, the Smurfs, and SpongeBob SquarePants.

Early supporters and collectors of his work are street-wear designer Nigo of a Bathing Ape fame and the musician Pharrell Williams.

Solo exhibitions include OriginalFake at the Bape Gallery in Tokyo (2003) where his sculpture "Wonderful World" sold for $400,000.[citation needed] KAWS has been periodically showing both paintings and products at Colette in Paris since 1999. His work is included in the traveling exhibition Beautiful Losers, which started at the Cincinnati Contemporary Art Center and will be traveling through 2009 throughout the US and Europe, including his largest museum show to date, which will be held at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia.

KAWS's "Companion", a grayscale clown-like figure based on Mickey Mouse with his face obscured by both hands, was adapted into a balloon for the 2012 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade as part of the parade's "Blue Sky Gallery" feature.

Not a stranger to creating oversized sculptures, he started to produce further sculptures of his "Companion" character for exhibitions in Switzerland,[11] Hong Kong,[12] Malaga[13] and London.[14]

Apart from creating paintings and sculptures, KAWS also releases high-quality screen prints. His latest editions were "Paper Smile",[15] "Ups And Downs"[16] and "Presenting The Past".[17]


External links[edit]