Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past decade, you will definitely be aware of KAWS. In fact, if you’re working in the art world, it’s unlikely that you’ve been able to avoid him. From crashing art fairs, music festivals, breaking auction records and international exhibitions, KAWS is everywhere. Whether you love him or hate him, KAWS is here to stay, and we have a quick cheat sheet prepared for you to make sure you know all about the divisive artist.
His Real Name Is Brian Donnelly
He was born in Jersey City in 1974, where he became interested in graffiti at a young age, evolving into a fully-fledged graffiti artist in the 1990s.
KAWS Has No Meaning
For those wondering what KAWS stands for. It doesn’t stand for anything. KAWS just thought that the letters just looked good together.
He Previously Worked For Disney
No wonder his characters have that cartoon-like look, huh? For Disney he made animated backgrounds in shows including Daria, Doug and 101 Dalmatians.
He’s Most Famous For His Cross-Eyed Skull
KAWS’s characters have been seen everywhere, and he is somewhat of an icon, almost as recognizable as your favourite cartoons. In fact his characters have names: The Companion, Bendy and The Accomplice.
The Fashion World Loves Him
He’s worked with Uniqlo, Dior Homme, Nike, March Jacobs, A Bathing Ape, Comme Des Garcons, Undercover and Vans. So, it seems he is more fashionable than most designers!
And So Does The Music World
KAWS worked with Kanye West for his cover of 808s and Heartbreaks. He also made the perfume bottle for Girl with Pharrell Williams for Comme Des Garcons, and KAWS later showed up at Pharrell’s HOLIDAY Festival in 2018, proving a long-time friendship.
He’s Also Made Toys Too
KAWS first collaborated with Japanese clothing company Bounty Hunter in 1999 to make a series of toys, which are now highly sought after. Since then, he has incorporated a number of cartoons during his various fashion collaborations. These include Snoopy, Mickey Mouse, Spongebob Squarepants, Family Guy and The Smurfs.
He’s Popular With The Art Market
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???? #Repost @ngvmelbourne ・・・ Coinciding with the exhibition opening of KAWS: Companionship in the Age of Loneliness, @ngvdesignstore has collaborated with artist Brian Donnelly, aka KAWS, to design a retail collection. The collection will go live Friday 20 September at 10am Australian Eastern Standard Time online and in store at NGV International. @kaws #KAWSNGV #KAWS • © KAWS
From installations at Art Basel Hong Kong to record making sales at auction, KAWS is not a character to mess with. In 2018, his work reached a whopping $33.8 million through auction sales.
He’s Big On Instagram
Perhaps the biggest key to his success in the digital age, KAWS has a whopping 2.5 million follows on the gram. These days, if you’re going to make it, you need the digital world behind you.
Text Lizzy Vartanian