KAWS is an American graffiti artist and designer known for his toys, paintings, and prints. Pop Art and culture permeate his cartoonish Companion series of figurines. Born Brian Donnelly on November 4, 1974 in Jersey City, NJ, KAWS worked in animation after graduating with a BFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York. Having started as a graffiti artist in New York in the early 1990s, KAWS began reworking advertisements in his distinctive style. Gaining both street accreditation and more recently gallery exhibitions, his work can be found in the collections at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, and the Rosenblum Collection in Paris. KAWS worked together with Nike in 2017 to produce an Air Jordan 4 shoe and has done multiple collaborations with the clothing brand Uniqlo, continuing to blur the boundaries between fine and commercial art.
The ex-Disney illustrator, created his first vinyl toy in 1999: an eight-inch “Companion” whose round belly, noodly limbs, and white gloves immediately reminded viewers of the cartoons made famous by his former workplace. The limited edition toy, produced in collaboration with the Japanese brand Bounty Hunter, reflected KAWS’s desire to make his work more accessible to the public. In the years since, KAWS has rendered most of his signature characters in three dimensions, including Chum, Bendy, and Blitz, as well as his renditions of iconic cartoons like Tweety, Snoopy, and Pinocchio. When first released, these sculptures often sell out in just seconds. When the Museum of Modern Art promoted KAWS’s toys in its design store, collector demand was so high that the museum’s website crashed multiple times.
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