Kaws virtual figurines float above the art market

“Companion (Expanded)” (2020), by Kaws, in augmented reality, at the Louvre Pyramid, in Paris.
“Companion (Expanded)” (2020), by Kaws, in augmented reality, at the Louvre Pyramid, in Paris. KAWS AND ACUTE ART

His name may not mean anything to you, but chances are you will know his creations. More divisive than Banksy, who had a work destroyed at Sotheby’s, or that Maurizio Cattelan and his banana taped at Art Basel Miami, Kaws – whose real name is Brian Donnelly – was one of the precursors of "Art toys", these plastic figurines created by graffiti artists, designers or illustrators in limited editions from the end of the 1990s. A phenomenon from Japan that this 45-year-old New Yorker carried and evolved into the world of art contemporary, by transforming these “design toys” into sculptures, from boutiques to galleries, and from galleries to museums today: the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne is currently devoting a retrospective to him, others will follow in London in October and in Brooklyn Museum, in New York, in 2021.

Read the survey (in July 2019): Kaws' bargains

All this, by multiplying collaborations with the world of fashion, music (an album cover for Kanye West) and luxury (series of t-shirts at Uniqlo, plush toys for Dior…), which assured him an extraordinary international popularity with 20-45 year olds, boosted by social networks.

Whether you are sensitive to his universe or not, the former graffiti artist and skateboarder has become an essential reflection of the era. For further proof, the project launched on Thursday March 12, which comes at the right time to open its field of creation to augmented reality with virtual works accessible to all and without risk of confinement in very frequented places. In these times of fear linked to the Covid-19 epidemic, the timing is perfect – and fortuitous – for a project that has been in the works for a year.

Hybrid between Mickey, a clown and a skeleton

The building is discreet, the bell anonymous. On the ground floor of his studio in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, the artist's assistants are busy in the paint shop. He comes down to welcome us, and leads us upstairs to his office, the walls covered with works on paper from his important art collection. On the tables, floors and shelves proliferate his characters: his iconic Companion, a hybrid between Mickey, a clown and a skeleton, created twenty years ago, but also Accomplice, Chum, Astro Boy, JPP, the dissected Companion… All in resin, wood or bronze, have simple crosses in place of the eyes, its signature, and embody by their attitudes a certain fragility.

Kaws had fun testing the possibilities of photos and films with his virtual partners in a wide variety of contexts


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