Brooklyn-based artist KAWS (real name Brian Donnelly) is holding his first solo museum show in New York appropriately enough at the Brooklyn Museum. Titled “KAWS: WHAT PARTY” and curated by Eugenie Tsai, the show includes 167 objects spanning 25 years of the 46-year-old artist’s work.
A surprisingly emotional collection of work expressing deep sadness as well as surreal-infused joyfulness, the exhibit couldn’t feel more apt for a world struggling to recover from the devastating impact of COVID-19. Underscoring the sentiment, the exhibit includes a new sculpture titled “SEPARATED,” featuring a COMPANION who is seated and appears to be in deep mourning with his head covered with his hands and buried in his knees.
Work begins with photographs of his early days as a graffiti artists when he gained a name for overlaying billboards and bus stop ads with his art.
There’s also multiple versions of KAWS’ famed COMPANION figures, including film documentation of the making of his 121-foot-long inflatable “Holiday” sculpture, which was floated down multiple waterways throughout 2019 in multiple Asian countries.
In addition to sculptures, there are multiple rooms filled with KAWS paintings inspired by popular cartoons like The Simpsons and SpongeBob SquarePants. The exhibit also features a large mural inspired by the Smurfs, a work of art on lend from Pharrell Williams‘ personal collection.
The exhibition features the debut of CHUM, a character created for the exhibition who KAWS has used to “express human relationships, emotions and states of mind.”
As an artist who is very much of streetwear, KAWS is as famous for his work as he is his creative partnerships and the collection includes collabs with brands including Air Jordan, Vans, Sons + Daughters, MTV‘s Moonman, Williams’ GIRL unisex scent and much more.
A streetwear adjacent exhibit wouldn’t be an exhibit without merch and the exhibit ends with a shop filled with KAWS goodies. There are refrigerator magnets, puzzles, three different white t-shirts, two posters, multiple books including exhibit editions signed by KAWS, three different figurines in multiple colorways, a set of four porcelain plates and two small pieces of original work.
‘KAWS: WHAT PARTY” exhibit opens on February 26, 2021. For non-members, the show currently is sold out until March 4th, but will enjoy an extended stay at the museum through September 5, 2021.
Check out some highlights from the show below. All images shot by Snobette.