KAWS (American, b.1974) is a notable limited-edition toy and clothing designer. He was born in Jersey City, NJ, as Brian Donnelly. Growing up in New Jersey, KAWS first became interested in graffiti in elementary school, where he spent a good deal of time copying graffiti images onto paper. His first influences were neighborhood children, who painted graffiti images on walls within his community. As he grew older, his influences came from traditional life painters, such as Gerhard Richter (German, b.1932), Klaus Oldenberg (Swedish, b.1929), and Chuck Close (American, b.1940).

KAWS’s career began as a graffiti artist in New York, NY, in the early 1990s. His images were seen on billboards, bus stops, and in phone booths. He obtained his BFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York. Immediately after graduation in 1996, KAWS began working as a freelance artist for Disney, creating animated backgrounds. Some of his most popular works include his contributions to 101 Dalmations, Daria, and Doug. Once KAWS began to gain popularity, his graffiti advertisements became highly sought after. He traveled extensively to work in Paris, London, Germany, and Japan. In 1998, he received the Pernod Liquid Art Award, which offers a grant to new artists.

In late 1990s, KAWS began to design and produce limited-edition toys. These gained international popularity, especially in Japan. He also began to collaborate on several different toys, including with Nigo (Japanese, b.1970) for A Bathing Ape. Some of KAWS’s other popular collaborative works include his redesign of Mickey Mouse, The Michelin Man, and SpongeBob SquarePants. The artist’s solo exhibitions have been held at The Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art in Ridgefield, CT, the Harris Museum in Preston, UK, the Parco Gallery in Tokyo, Japan, and the City Gallery Chastain in Atlanta, GA. His solo exhibition, OriginalFake at the Bape Gallery in Tokyo, Japan, featured a sculpture entitled Wonderful World, which sold for US$400,000. KAWS’s traveling exhibition, Beautiful Losers, toured throughout Europe and the United States and included a showing at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, GA. The artist currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.

Timeline

1974
Born in Jersey City, NJ
1996
BFA School of Visual Arts, New York, NY.
1998
Recipient, Pernod Liquid Art Award
Studied at The School of Visual Arts in New York City
Lives and works in Brooklyn, NY

Exhibitions

2013
At home I´m a tourist’ Colección de Selim Varol - CAC Centro de Arte Contemporáneo Málaga, Málag
2012
Kaws - Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin - Paris, Paris
Imaginary Friends - Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin - Paris, Paris
Companion - The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Fort Worth, TX
The Nature of Need - Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin - Paris, Paris
Kaws: Down Time - The High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA
2011
FOCUS: KAWS - The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Fort Worth, TX
Hold The Line - Honor Fraser, Los Angeles, CA
Kaws - Companion (passing Through) - The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, CT
2010
The Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, Ridgefield, CT (solo)
2009
Plastic Culture, Harris Museum and Art Gallery, Preston, Great Britain (solo)
Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Paris, France; traveling
Plastic Culture, Harris Museum and Art Gallery, Preston, UK
Honor Fraser, Los Angeles, CA
Just what is it that makes today's painting so different, so appealing?, Gering & López Gallery, New York
2008
Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Miami, FL
Gering & López Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
2004–2008
Beautiful Losers, Curated by Aaron Rose & Christian Strike, Le Tri Postal, Lille, France
2006
Info Babble, Richard & Dolly Maass Gallery, Purchase, NY
Ugly Winners, Galerie Du Juor Agnes B., Paris, France
2004
Palazzo Dell’Arte, Milan, Italy
USF Contemporary Art Museum, Tampa, FL
Contemporary Museum, Baltimore, MD
Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach, CA
Yerba Buena Arts Center, San Francisco, CA
Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH
2003
SK8 on the Wall, Parco Gallery, Tokyo, Japan
Original Fake, BAPE Gallery, Tokyo, Japan (solo)
2002
Elms Lesters Painting Room, London, UK (solo)
Session The Bowl , Deitch Projects, New York, NY
ALIFE Shop, Deitch Projects, New York, NY
Coded Language, City Gallery Chastain , Atlanta, GA
2001
Shortcuts, Nicosia Municipal Arts Centre, Athens, Greece
Pierides Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens, Greece
New Acquisitions from the Dakis Joannou Collection , Deste Foundation, Athens, Greece
Tokyo First , Parco Gallery, Tokyo, Japan (solo)
1999
Colette, Paris, France (solo)