Contemporary Art

KAWS in the House: Connecting City, Art and People to the Living Monument of Consumerism

By Sotheby's
The works of KAWS have proven in a short time that they do not belong only on the walls of museums. Now as an acclaimed artist, his works do not belong to the walls of the street anymore. They belong to something much bigger, now, such as where we walk and where we live our public lives.

T his is why you see the creative expression from KAWS nearly everywhere you visit in Asia, from the public squares to the purses and jumpers of the nouveau-riche and the creative crowds posing for Instagram selfies around his monumental installations. In creative collaboration with curators and other artists, KAWS has tapped into a consumerist art that connects people to their time and place.

The intensity of KAWS reception in the Asia pop culture scene has a lot to do with his work with SK Lam. He has walked and worked with KAWS through this Grand Tour of the pop culture world for over a decade, as they both constructed a channel connecting a people to their city, and to the spirit that guided their everyday lives.

They took something that was cute or banal and interlaced it with a mood, placing it in the right place at the right time.

The inflated KAWS: HOLIDAY sculpture in Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall. Photography: @s.yin.h/ Photo Credit: AllRightsReserved

They created a global phenomenon that cannot be contained in a museum, but is written on the walls of every teeming city in crucial public spaces, opening people’s eyes to how they really live.

In recent years, these pop culture revelations have spread and technology has boosted his fame. KAWS has become impossible to ignore - as a marquee in museums and as a fashion plate and highly sought brand synonymous with zeitgeist expression. His collaboration with both high fashion and everyday wear brands has connected him to people from different regions and backgrounds.

36-meter tall inflated KAWS: HOLIDAY sculpture. Photo Credit: AllRightsReserved

Even if they have never seen a gallery opening, most may still find his name via his graphic t-shirt designs KAWS X Sesame Street with Uniqlo, or his latest design collaborations with Kim Jones, Creative Director of Dior Homme - #KAWSBFF is one of Instagram’s latest trending hashtags. His followers cannot stop taking selfies with his monumental installations in glittering shopping malls and against famous landmarks.

Lam’s self-described “obsession” to detail has helped KAWS place these works in the right places, at the right time.

In January 2019, a collaboration with curator SK Lam’s creative studio AllRightsReserved and singer JJ Lin’s JFJ Productions brought the 36-meter tall inflated KAWS: HOLIDAY sculpture to Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall during Taipei Dangdai Art Fair. It attracted tens of thousands of visitors crowding to check-in and take photographs.

Singer JJ Lin (Left), Artist KAWS and Founder of AllRightsReserved SK Lam (Right). Photo Credit: AllRightsReserved

Everyone is born with the ability to appreciate art and all art can find its audience’,” says Lam. Though many are skeptical whether street art and collaboration between artists and brands can be identified as ‘art’, he says: “A piece of [installation or brand] work is art, no matter what. The only thing that changes is time, and audience.”

Monumental installations such as KAWS: HOLIDAY easily attract the attention from the general public. They are attempts to connect people and the city - not merely how people look at the art works, but more how they think about them and how they reflect our time. I think they are about how people and art influence each other.
- SK Lam

Although there is no immediate plan to show it in Hong Kong, SK said with a smile, "as the organizer and curator of this project, of course I would love to bring it to Hong Kong."

36-meter tall inflated KAWS: HOLIDAY sculpture. Photogrpagy: @_deepsky/ Photo Credit: AllRightsReserved

SK Lam is more than a partner to KAWS. They have been working together for more than a decade, and have grown to call each other friends. SK comments that KAWS is an artist who is self-demanding/ asks a lot of himself. They enjoyed the sparks during their brainstorming sessions, support each other’s dreams, inspire and aspire.

36-meter tall inflated KAWS: HOLIDAY sculpture. Photo Credit: AllRightsReserved

Their passion of art fueled their continuous experiment of challenging themselves and "we both love what we do, and we want to make sure we present the concept at its best. And make sure all the details are perfect."

"I am not an artist. I am just creatively obsessed," SK Concluded.

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