Laughter and cheers echoed throughout the room at Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Auction in London as the hammer came down for KAWS’ 2008 painting, AGAIN AND AGAIN. Selling for £1.03 million, this portrait of one of America’s most beloved cartoon characters, SpongeBob SquarePants, quadrupled its low estimate of £250,000, setting a record price for the artist.
KAWS, the Brooklyn-based artist also known as Brian Donnelly, is recognized for his appropriations of animations from popular culture; one of his most notable characters is COMPANION – a dark twist on Mickey Mouse. Composed of vibrant colors, an eerie grin and KAWS’ classic X-eyes, this portrait of SpongeBob offers a poignant social commentary on an image-saturated and media-obsessed contemporary society. “[I] found it weird how infused a cartoon could become in people's lives; the impact it could have, compared to regular politics,” the artist explains. Nostalgic to some, humorous to others, take a glimpse into the sale room as bidding goes back and forth for this iconic, record-setting work.