His real name is Brian Donnelly, born in Jersey City in 1974.
He chooses his nickname Kaws only for the combination of the letters “I only liked the forms of k, a, w, s“.
With currently 3 million followers on Instagram, in 2019 KAWS ranks 18th in the world ranking of artists, surpassing Roy Lichtenstein and its market, and obtaining $ 89,765,357 in turnover, with the sale of 867 works and the top lot The KAWS Album, sold for $ 12,728,000 at Sotheby’s in Hong Kong.
Since 2014, the year in which its turnover exceeds one million dollars for the first time, he has achieved growth of 273%.
picture taken from the Architectural Digest website
At the beginning of his artistic career, in the 90s, Brian Donnelly used his inimitable “XX” signature in creating his first works of art as a street artist. In his early graffiti, in fact, Brian stubbornly reproduced the KAWS tag, often adding a pirate skull, rounded, with crossed bones and with each eye socket filled with an “X”.
KAWS’s first works of art are represented by interventions on fashion advertising posters, from GUESS to Calvin Klein. He painted in such a way that his paintings fit perfectly with the advertising campaign, as if he were part of it. KAWS would break into the stands at night, remove their advertising posters, add his graffiti to the posters and reinstall them again on the stand another night.
video taken from BloombergQuicktake Youtube
In 1996 he graduated from the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan and began working as a freelancer for the animation studio “Jumbo Pictures” when it was acquired by Disney. In those years Kaws comes into contact with iconic cartoon characters such as Mickey Mouse, Pinocchio.
KAWS created his first vinyl toy in 1999, an eight-inch “Companion”, in three colors, of 500 units each. It is a perfect mix between Mickey and a skull, whose round belly, cut limbs and white gloves make it expressionless and eerie, but at the same time, playful and accessible. KAWS Companion is considered to all intents and purposes his best-known cartoon character. The limited edition toy, produced in collaboration with the Japanese brand Bounty Hunter, reflected KAWS ‘desire to make his work more accessible to the public.
In 2006 Kaws opened his own OriginalFake independent store, in the Aoyama district of Tokyo, in collaboration with Medicom Toy. The intertwining of “Original” and “False” confirms his interest in wanting to break down the boundary between manual and serial art and in wanting to be a promoter of forms of popular creativity.
“I have always thought that the world of fine art was hypocritical and snubbed products. I have never considered creating only products or only paintings, but I want to do it all at the same time and see what happens “.
His desire to experiment his creativity with ever-changing forms and tools allowed him to establish himself first in the world of television, then as a sculptor and street artist, and now as a designer for some well-known clothing brands.
In 2019, KAWS created the Holiday installation which has the appearance of Companion and was positioned in Victoria Harbor in Hong Kong. 37 meters high for an extraordinary floating work that invited people to indulge in even just a moment of relaxation, abandoning the chaotic frenzy of everyday life.
video taken from @Kaws Instagram
KAWS Holiday was also exhibited in Taipei and Seoul’s Seokchon Lake. Subsequently, the artist brought his famous KAWS art toy to Shizuoka, on the slopes of Mount Fuji.
For the occasion, KAWS has also created a special merchandiser that includes a 20 cm plush in the shape of Mount Fuji stylized in three colors.
video taken from @Kaws Instagram
The installation arrived in Europe in 2021. But not in the waters of the sea or any river, but unexpectedly it appeared in the Bristol sky. On the occasion of the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta, the fair dedicated to hot air balloons, KAWS Holiday has become a hot air balloon – even larger than the floating version given its current height of 42 meters – which will take guests to discover the wonders of Bristol, from tall.
In spring/summer 2019, Kaws’ collaboration with Dior. Before being a couturier, Christian Dior was in fact a gallery owner and deeply loved art, so much so that he was surrounded by personalities such as Salvador Dalí, Pablo Picasso and Giorgio De Chirico.
A 22-foot-tall sculpture of KAWS ‘signature BFF character, adorned with thousands of pink roses, loomed over the Dior runway show at Paris Fashion Week, and the models walked the runway carrying plush versions of the figure.
The collaboration between KAWS and Dior also includes sweatshirts, key rings, socks, pins and other wearable items, combining the world of high fashion and street art. Before Dior he collaborated with A Bathing Ape, Undercover, Medicom Toy, Supreme, Nike, Comme des Garçons, NIGO, Jun Takahashi and Michael “Mic” Neumann.
Christian Dior – Youtube
Cover photo: Portrait of KAWS. Photo: ©Ringo Cheung. Courtesy Perrotin