Born on the other side of the Hudson, Brian Donnelly, aka KAWS has taken the art world by storm. Starting his career animating TV series by day and tagging KAWS over billboards, trains and buildings at night, his style then evolved in the late 90s towards the meticulous art of subvertising. Thanks to a masterkey he received, he was able to unlock advertisement cases by phone booths and bus stations, incorporate his emblematic figures in his studio, and then return the modified posters to their respective locations, steadily building a following, to the point where they would get snatched even the same day they were posted!
This newfound fame brought him closer to his ultimate gig that would propel his career to new heights, and bring his work directly to the people. Japan, 1999, The first Companion is launched. Limited to 500 units and in collaboration with Bounty Hunter, the series sells out in record times.
Over a hundred and thirty toy designs later, Donnelly now finds himself at the center of a Park Avenue icon; Mies Van Der Rohe’s Seagram building.
Centering the elevated plaza, a massive 20 feet tall ‘WHAT PARTY’ is now drawing intrigued people and existing fans, posing and taking selfies with this new addition to the ‘sterile’ Park Avenue scene.
Launched in the midst of the pandemic, it builds on his early character CHUM, with a similar Michelin Man look, but this time with a less confident posture.
The notion of KAWS being featured in the cradle of corporate America might seem foreign to many. It is not to RFR realty, and its co-founder Aby Rosen.
In addition to leveraging his extensive collection of over 800 works of art that can be seen in places such as the Gramercy Park Hotel’s Rose bar where Warhols, Basquiats and Harings casually hang in the background, Rosen has been commissioning artists to adorn some of his prized properties such as SOM’s archetypal modernist Lever House, receiving works by Jeff Koons in 2004 and Damian Hirst in 2005.
Walking a few blocks south on Park Avenue to Vornado Realty's 280 Park, we are greeted by another KAWS creation; a pink, furry BFF, standing tall in a swanky building lobby, fully tiled with Calacatta marble. First unveiled in Bangkok in 2016, the BFF family has since grown to be another major success for KAWS to the point where MOMA's website crashed due to heavy traffic as soon as they announced they were selling a limited run of the $200 toy.
BFF stands as a contrast to its counterpart WHAT PARTY at the Seagram Building, and a refreshing addition to the Park Avenue scene.
KAWS announced the overnight delivery of WHAT PARTY on his instagram on October 4th and below you can find photos of the day-long installation on October 5th, made possible by Skarstedt Gallery that boast an important collection of work by the artist. BFF on the other hand, arrived a few days earlier, on September 29, to its new permanent home at 280 Park Avenue.
An extensive exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum will be held from the 12th of February till the 5th of September showcasing over a hundred works from the artist and will allow for innovative virtual experiences in addition to in person visits.
Stay tuned for exciting KAWS updates in the future!