I received a press release from The Brooklyn Museum announcing that they will present the first major survey of KAWS in the New York City area early next year. Titled “KAWS: WHAT PARTY,” the exhibition will run from February 12 to September 5, 2021. The exhibition will chronicle KAWS’s work over a 25-year span, featuring paintings, sculptures, graffiti drawings, smaller collectibles, furniture, and recent augmented reality projects.

sculpture and drawing by KAWS
Above left: KAWS (American, born 1974). WHAT PARTY, 2020. Bronze, paint, 90 × 43 5/16 × 35 3/8 in.(228.6 × 110 × 89.9 cm). © KAWS. (Photo: Brad Bridgers Photography); above right: KAWS (American, born 1974). Spread from artist’s blackbook, circa 1993. Photograph, ink on paper, 12 1/2 × 8 in. (31.8 × 20.3 cm). © KAWS. (Photo: Brad Bridgers Photography)

KAWS is the professional name of Brian Donnelly, who was born in Jersey City and currently lives and works in Brooklyn. His prolific body of work straddles the worlds of art and design, and he has built a successful career creating a wide range of work, including paintings, murals, graphic design, product design, street art, and large-scale sculptures. There was a great story in the NY Times last year about his unusual career path, in that he created a series of characters that became popular toys, t-shirts and various commercial collaborations before he was fully recognized in the more formal fine art world of galleries and museums. He’s a rare artist who is highly sought-after by collectors both inside and outside of the art world.

One unique twist to this museum survey will be the opportunity for visitors to directly engage with KAWS’s work through Acute Art, an augmented reality app the artist has partnered with for this show. How this will play out is that visitors will be able to digitally interact with augmented reality sculptures on their smartphones, which will create a unique experience for each visitor with the work.

“The Brooklyn Museum and KAWS have been working together since 2015, and we’re excited to further that relationship by presenting his first mid-career survey in the U.S.,” says Eugenie Tsai, who is the John and Barbara Vogelstein Senior Curator of Contemporary Art at the Brooklyn Museum, and the curator of this exhibition. “While participating in a cultural environment shaped by image and consumption, KAWS simultaneously emphasizes the constant presence of universal emotions in his work, such as love, friendship, loneliness, and alienation – an emphasis that is now more important and relevant than ever before.”

art by KAWS at the Brooklyn Museum in 2021
Above left: KAWS (American, born 1974). COMPANION (RESTING PLACE), 2013. Aluminum, paint, 60 1/2 × 63 × 80 in. (153.7 × 160 × 203.2 cm). © KAWS. (Photo: Jonty Wilde); above right: KAWS (American, born 1974). M2, 2000. Acrylic on canvas, 68 × 48 in. (172.7 × 121.9 cm). © KAWS. (Photo: Farzad Owrang)

I look forward to seeing this exhibition when it opens next year; it’s hard to say how public health policy in regards to COVID will affect the ability to see this show, since it’s still 5 months away and much can change between now and then, but I hope it comes together in a way so that as many people can see it as possible!

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