KAWS Biography

KAWS is revolutionizing the art world.  Art critics have consistently compared KAWS to historic masters Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring, whose careers also began on the street. KAWS’ thoughtful interplay with imagery associated with consumer products and global brands also lead art critics to compare him to Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons.


KAWS has taken the art world by storm with his distinctive sculptures that blur the lines between pop culture, street art, and fine art. His sculptures, characterized by their iconic cartoon-like characters, have become iconic in their own right, leaving an indelible mark on the contemporary art scene.

KAWS's sculptures are instantly recognizable for their oversized, distorted characters. His creations often feature characters borrowed from popular culture, such as Mickey Mouse, The Simpsons, and the Smurfs, which he reimagines with his unique twist. These sculptures are crafted with meticulous attention to detail, and KAWS's signature "X" eyes and gloved hands add an element of mystery and intrigue to his characters.

One of the most striking aspects of KAWS's sculptures is their ability to straddle the line between high and low art. He draws inspiration from his early years as a graffiti artist, when he made his mark by subverting advertisements and billboards. This subversion continues in his sculptures, where he appropriates familiar characters, giving them a new identity and inviting viewers to reconsider their preconceptions of these beloved icons.

KAWS's sculptures are not limited to a single medium. He works with a variety of materials, including bronze, fiberglass, and wood, allowing him to experiment with texture, color, and scale. This versatility has contributed to the widespread appeal of his work, making it accessible to both seasoned art collectors and casual art enthusiasts.

Perhaps one of the most notable aspects of KAWS's sculptures is their ability to resonate with a broad audience. His work taps into the nostalgia of viewers who grew up with these iconic characters, sparking a sense of familiarity and fondness. At the same time, his sculptures challenge viewers to confront deeper questions about consumerism, materialism, and the commodification of art in the modern world.

The impact of KAWS's sculptures on the art world cannot be overstated. They have been featured in prestigious galleries and museums around the world, including the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York and the Tate Modern in London. These exhibitions have not only elevated KAWS's status as an artist but have also brought his unique brand of art to a global audience.

In addition to his gallery and museum exhibitions, KAWS has collaborated with a range of high-profile brands and celebrities, further blurring the lines between art and popular culture. His limited-edition collectibles and collaborations with companies like Nike and Dior have turned his sculptures into coveted collector's items, with some pieces selling for astronomical prices at auction.

The enduring appeal of KAWS's sculptures lies in their ability to challenge conventions and provoke thought while simultaneously evoking a sense of nostalgia and delight. His work resonates with a diverse range of viewers, from those deeply entrenched in the art world to those encountering contemporary art for the first time. With each new sculpture, KAWS continues to push the boundaries of what art can be, cementing his status as a visionary artist whose impact on the art world is sure to endure for generations to come.

KAWS's sculptures have made a profound impact on the art world by blending elements of pop culture, street art, and fine art into a unique and captivating form of expression. His ability to transform familiar characters into thought-provoking art pieces has resonated with audiences worldwide, and his influence can be seen not only in galleries and museums but also in the realms of fashion, design, and popular culture. KAWS's sculptures have redefined what it means to engage with art in the modern age, and his legacy as an artist is firmly established as he continues to inspire and challenge both artists and art enthusiasts alike.


Born in 1974 in Jersey City, New Jersey, Brian Donnelly, known professionally as KAWS, is a multi-faceted New York-based artist. KAWS began his career as a graffiti artist in Jersey City and in the early 1990s moved to New York to pursue a formal education in the arts. In 1996 he earned a Bachelor in Fine Art, with an emphasis in illustration, from the School of Visual Arts. That same year, he began working as a freelance animator for The Walt Disney Company, where he contributed to some of its best-known films, including 101 Dalmatians, Daria and Doug. This impressive start led him onto a successful career path and recognition as one of the most renowned contemporary artists, exhibiting in internationally acclaimed museums and galleries.

Donnelly chose the moniker KAWS because he liked the way the letters looked together. As well as being established in the graffiti art world, the name is distinguished within the fine art world. In the late 1990s, KAWS began designing and producing limited edition vinyl toys, which became an instant hit in the global toy-collecting community. More recently, KAWS has designed toys and clothing for prominent companies such as Original Fake, Undercover, Kung Faux, Comme des Garcons, Vans and Nike. KAWS worked with Nike and Uniqlo in 2017 to produce clothing items inspired by his unique and distinctly recognizable iconography inspired by his fascination of the cartoon world.

Art critics have consistently compared KAWS to historic masters Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring, whose careers also began on the street. KAWS’ thoughtful interplay with imagery associated with consumer products and global brands also lead art critics to compare him to Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons. Similar to these artists, KAWS challenges the distinction of ‘high’ and ‘low’ art, and blurs the lines between commercial and fine art. KAWS iconic “XX” signature has its roots in his early street art period and continues to distinguish him as a cultural pop phenomenon. In his signature style, KAWS has reworked many popular television and cartoon icons including characters from The Simpsons, Mickey Mouse, the Smurfs, the Michelin Man and SpongeBob SquarePants. In doing so, KAWS has become famous for subverting iconic cartoon figures to demonstrate a thoughtful interplay between consumerism and cultural value.

KAWS’ aesthetic employs a sophisticated and playful humor that has caught the attention of dealers, collectors, galleries, auction houses and museums in the international art world. KAWS has had solo exhibitions in museums including the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, High Museum of Art in Atlanta, the Modern Art Museum in Atlanta and the Yuz Museum of Shanghai. Additional solo exhibitions have taken place at Galerie Perrotin in New York and at the Honor Fraser Gallery in Los Angeles, California. His work can be found in the collections of the High Museum of Art, the Modern Art Museum and the Rosenblum Collection in Paris and included in group exhibitions in Paris, London, Berlin and Tokyo. Currently, the Brooklyn Museum of Art is organizing a major survey of the artist’s work to open in 2021. KAWS has entered the secondary market as a living artist and sold works through the major auction houses, including Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Phillips. In his most recent triumph, a work titled The Kaws Album 2005, sold for a staggering $14.7 million at Sotheby’s, breaking his previous record of $2.7 million for a work sold in 2018.

KAWS is without a doubt an artist to keep an eye on. His popularity even caused the website of the Museum of Modern Art in New York to crash when it announced the release of his limited edition toys. His unconventional beginning as a street artist allows him to skillfully straddle the art and design worlds in works including murals, paintings, prints and sculptures. His meteoric rise in the art market and his mass appeal among key players in the arts offer a window into where contemporary art is headed.