American contemporary artist Brian Donnelly aka KAWS, is known for his rework of pop culture icons like Mickey Mouse, the Michelin Man, the Smurfs, Snoopy, SpongeBob SquarePants, and MTV's 2013 Moonman trophy with a twist. After being compared to Jeff Koons and Andy Warhol in KAWS's eyes, everyone needs a COMPANION in their corner.
5 Things You Should Know About KAWS
1. KAWS is not his real name
Born in Jersey City, New Jersey, Brian Donnelly began his using the tag 'KAWS' while attending St. Anthony High School. Donnelly graffitied his now-famous label on the roof of a nearby building so that when he sat in class, he could see it every day. Once high school concluded, Donnelly attended The School of Visual Arts in New York City to pursue a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. Once Brian moved into Manhattan for college, he continued to leave his mark throughout the New York streets. KAWS mark was spread as spoofs and parodies of corporate and political advertisements where ever he could.
When asked what drove him to use his infamous title, Brian admits there was no real meaning behind using the letters together. He just felt that they looked cool together.
2. Animator by Day Graffiti Artist by Night
Once KAWS graduated with his degree, he took on a job at Jumbo Pictures as a freelancer animated from three popular animated series from the 1990s, including 101 Dalmatians, Daria, and Doug. Even though Brian had a good day gig right out of college at night, he sprayed the streets, phone booths, bus stations, and the subways from New York City to Paris and Tokyo.
3. KAWS made his name with toys
After a trip coloring Japan's streets with his work, KAWS was approached by the street brand king and toy collecting enthusiast Bounty Hunter. Hunter at that time was a big fan of KAWS, helped create KAWS's create his first toy, the vinyl figure 'COMPANION.'
With so much buzz swarming around the up and coming artist, he sold out the first launch of his 500 pieces limited edition toy run of the KAWS 'COMPANION' within a short few hours. His popularity has made the KAWS' COMPANION' a must-have amongst collectors.
4. How much is KAWS worth?
Over the years, KAWS has driven his digital footprint across the globe through social media catching celebrity fans' attention, such as Dior designer Kim Jones, Swizz Beatz, Steve Aoki, Pharrell Williams, and celebrity OG jeweler Ben Baller. All of whom shared their love of the KAWS collections gracing their shelves on their social media accounts.
Between the celeb notoriety and KAWS creative collaborations with streetwear brands like Bathing Ape and Supreme and creating his own KAWS x Air Jordan 4 has kept true to his love of graffiti culture. You can catch KAWS's work displayed in the Brooklyn Museum to the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego. He has made a lasting impression on the contemporary art and graffiti world.
According to a recent report as of January 2021, KAWS is worth an estimated $20 million, with his work going for tens of thousands.
5. KAWS Mark on the World
With the 2000s going exceptionally well for the artist, the KAWS brand made its mark on America as a revision of 'COMPANION' in the form of Mickey Mouse made its way down New York's streets for the 2012 Macy's Day Parade. In March of 2019, during Art Basel, KAWS took his iconic 'Companion' to new heights by turning the figurine into a 121-foot inflatable. The KAWS exhibited in Hong Kong's Victoria Harbour on display in Seoul and Taipei prior dubbed the KAWS: HOLIDAY.
For more in street art news and trends, take a look at what Banksy has been up to during quarantine lockdown.