KAWS, ‘FINAL DAYS’, 2014, Phillips

Property of an Important Private Collector

From the Catalogue:
Sculpted from a gorgeous dark brown African hardwood and weighing in at a half tonne, FINAL DAYS is an exemplary work by the intrepid KAWS. The artist’s classic revisions of iconic popular culture characters are not only immediately recognisable but are also in the spotlight now more than ever. Featuring KAWS’s idolised alterations applied to a hatless Kurf, the present lot showcases the unmistakable crossed-out eyes, bones imitating hair and ears, distorted mouth and impeccable fabrication that characterise the artist’s signature work. Though he is internationally known for his compelling cross-pollination of distinct imagery, materials, and cultural references, KAWS raises the stakes considerably incorporating for the first time the richly coloured, extremely durable afrormosia to articulate FINAL DAYS. Imbued with the spiritual energy of the historic lumber, this novel combination of timeless dark hardwood and contemporary iconography first debuted at the artist’s major 2014 exhibition of the same name at the Contemporary Art Centre of Málaga.

The charisma of FINAL DAYS emanates from its uncanny relatability as the work represents one of the artist’s most convincing explorations into the inner-world of humanity. Lumbering towards the viewer with its arms held out, the character featured in the work adopts a gait and expression that distances the piece from any association with the innocent world of fantasy and childhood. Eliciting sensations of melancholy and loss, FINAL DAYS conveys feelings inherent to the human condition that are balanced with the artist’s sophisticated sense of humour and charming cartoon aesthetic. Though KAWS states that his work “is a mirror of his own state of mind… and a way of understanding the world around him,” (KAWS quoted by Arie Bouman, "KAWS at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth," 11 January 2017) he further elucidates, "it’s not important for me to impose those thoughts on the viewer. I would much rather have the work find new meaning to the people that take the time to view it. I don’t make work with any specific audience in mind." (KAWS interviewed by Grace Banks, "Kanye West-favourite KAWS Exhibits His Sculptures at Yorkshire Sculpture Park," Forbes, 29 February 2016)

While the masterful Warholian-style re-appropriation of pop icons in FINAL DAYS stems from the artist’s early venture into the visual culture of New York City street art, the present lot truly emerges from the deep-seated respect for craftsmanship and the world of collecting as a mode of identity construction that KAWS encountered when he travelled to Japan in 1996. The integrity of craft in Japan inspired a new way of thinking for the artist. According to KAWS, “artists like [Takashi] Murakami… really opened up a lot of doors on acceptance and crossover projects.” (KAWS interviewed by Tobey Maguire, "KAWS," Interview Magazine, 27 April 2010) In response to the conventional distinction between “toys” and “sculptures,” KAWS clarifies, “to me it’s the same thing… I always thought it was funny how people like to put things in categories and label them… in the end, my thought process is the same.” (KAWS quoted in "KAWS," Modern Painters vol. 25, no. 10, November 2013, p. 31-32) To create this larger-than-life wooden sculpture, KAWS had cut the wood pieces in Amsterdam before shipping them to Maastricht for hand-finishing, making FINAL DAYS a truly global work of art. This level of expertise and precision furthermore extends from the artist’s admiration of Jeff Koons, whom KAWS commends, “I appreciate his perfectionist mentality. It’s so over the top.” (KAWS interviewed by Tobey Maguire, "KAWS," Interview Magazine, 27 April 2010)

KAWS’s ruthlessly honed works have carved out a unique path in the international art world assimilating Pop Art and abstraction. Whether in reaction to the recognisable figures from childhood cartoons or the empathetic tendencies of his many characters, KAWS’s prolific work speaks beyond pop culture.
Courtesy of Phillips

Galerie Perrotin, Hong Kong
Acquired from the above by the present owner

About KAWS

“KAWS” is a graffiti artist, illustrator, painter, sculptor, product designer, and toymaker. His cartoonish style—including his best-known characters with X-ed out eyes—has its roots in his early career as a street artist, when he began replacing advertisements with his own, masterful acrylic paintings in the early 1990s. Since, KAWS has embraced the commercialist spirit of Claes Oldenburg and Takashi Murakami, designing everything from Kanye West album covers to Nike sneakers. Avoiding the distinction between products and art objects, KAWS has shown his work increasingly in galleries and museums over the past decade; some of his most famous images are reimagined versions of pop characters like Mickey Mouse and the Michelin Man.

American, b. 1974, Jersey City, New Jersey, based in Brooklyn, New York