Here’s how you can view KAWS’s new NYC installation
The Frieze piece can’t be seen with the naked eye so you’ll need a fine art app for this augmented reality work
This week, Daniel Birnbaum, the artistic director of the augmented reality art production company Acute Art and the co-author of our book, KAWS: WHAT PARTY, has helped launch The Looking Glass, a virtual exhibition staged during Frieze New York.
The show includes works by artists Precious Okoyomon, winner of the Frieze Artist Award, as well as the Chinese artist Cao Fei and America’s own graffiti tagger turned fine artist, KAWS.
Viewers won’t actually have to enter The Shed in New York (home to this year's Frieze) to see works by Cao Fei and KAWS, these pieces have been installed just outside the venue. However, they will have to download Acute Art’s app, as the works can only be viewed via a phone camera. Once caught on camera they appear as real as the environment around them, and make for great selfie opportunities.
It’s a groundbreaking project for a fair that tends to generate revenue by enabling gallerists to sell tangible works to collectors; however, it is actually familiar territory for KAWS himself.
The artist actually began working with Acute Art just as the world was shutting down as a result of the pandemic. “He released his first work on March 12, 2020, with a selection that initially included the COMPANION from the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade, and later added the HOLIDAY SPACE figure,” writes curator Eugenie Tsai in our new book. “Anyone who downloads the app acquires the ability to select a piece from the available selection of KAWS sculptures and drawings and place that piece anywhere in the world. In essence the user becomes a curator of a focused AR collection of KAWS’s work.”
KAWS has kept the space age theme going with The Looking Glass, placing his HOLIDAY SPACE figure (a version of his COMPANION which he launched up to the edge of space in 2020) in The Shed’s grounds.
Placing an intangible object in a commercial art fair is a bold choice for any artist. So how should we regard these new pieces? Fine art? Digital collectables? An extension of gaming? A type of social media? Perhaps it’s all of these things. As Tsai puts it, the artist is “enlarging the possibilities of culture in ways that feel so right for this moment in the twenty-first century. Accepted ideas are under fire, a paradigm shift is underway, and KAWS is right in the midst of it.” Now, he’s offering art fair goers the opportunity to join him there.
To find out more about this important artist and his work, order a copy of KAWS: WHAT PARTY. The new book, which accompanies the artist's sold-out show, is available 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.