All you need to know about KAWS: WHAT PARTY
Our monograph on KAWS, one of the most sought-after artists and creative forces of our time, is the most comprehensive ever and is published in four different colour covers
Back in the mid-to-late 1990s, shortly after his move to New York, Brian Donnelly received a particularly useful gift. His friend and fellow artist Barry McGee gave him a tool that enabled Donnelly to unlock the ad display boards on the city’s phone booths.
Donnelly, a Jersey City native, had already made a name for himself as a graffiti artist, under the handle of KAWS. However, that skeleton key, combined with Donnelly's artistic talents, ambition, and feel for the moment, enabled him to open up an entirely new avenue for his work. He began doctoring display advertising, winding his now-distinctive serpentine, cross-eyed characters around posters featuring willowy supermodels, disrupting the world of street art, while also drawing the attention of key figures in the worlds of fashion and fine art.
Since then, KAWS hasn’t looked back. His innovative, colourful, clean-lined renderings of his now familiar characters such as Companion (a dead-eyed, skull-headed take on Mickey Mouse), Chum (a poppy take on the Michelin Man) and BFF (a more adult version of Sesame Street’s Elmo) appear in contemporary art collections across the world. They’re also prized by key figures in the worlds of music and fashion, such as Drake, Jay-Z and Nigo; and they are adored by an international quorum of pop-culture connoisseurs, who assiduously collect KAWS’s sculptures, paintings, vinyl toys and other works, each of which break down the divide between fine art and mass culture, in much the same way the artist himself once sprang the locks on NYC’s phone booth displays.
Our new book, KAWS: WHAT PARTY, celebrates and charts Donnelly’s rise, development and influence. Published in concert with the artist’s sell-out exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum in New York, KAWS: WHAT PARTY reproduces drawings from the artist’s earliest sketchbooks, as well as documentary photographs of his nascent street art (Donnelly learned to photograph his graffiti, since he could never be sure whether the pieces would last), and his billboard ad interventions, right up through to his more recent, large-scale productions, such as his exhibition at Yorkshire Sculpture Park in Great Britain in 2016; his monumental, inflatable, travelling installation, KAWS:HOLIDAY; his collaborations with manufacturers such as Estudio Campana; and his astronomical 2020 project, which saw the artist launch one of his Companion sculptures into space.
Written by the acclaimed critic and curator, Daniel Birnbaum, and Eugenie Tsai, the John and Barbara Vogelstein Senior Curator, Contemporary Art, at the Brooklyn Museum, KAWS: WHAT PARTY is a must-have for followers of contemporary art, as well as cultural connoisseurs with an interest in fashion, music and design.
The book is a cool addition to any home and comes in a range of KAWS-approved colours; take a look at the pink edition here; the yellow edition here; the black edition here; and the orange edition here. No matter which one you pick, KAWS: WHAT PARTY will unlock access to a compelling new field within contemporary culture, pioneered by one of the most important artists of our time.