KAWS: WHAT PARTY
February 26–September 5, 2021
Morris A. and Meyer Schapiro Wing and Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Gallery, 5th Floor
For twenty-five years, Brooklyn-based artist KAWS (Brian Donnelly, American, born 1974) has bridged the worlds of art, popular culture, and commerce. Adapting the rules of cultural production and consumption in the twenty-first century, his practice both critiques and participates in consumer culture. KAWS: WHAT PARTY is a sweeping survey featuring more than one hundred broad-ranging works, such as rarely seen graffiti drawings and notebooks, paintings and sculptures, smaller collectibles, furniture, and monumental installations of his popular COMPANION figures. It also features new pieces made uniquely for the exhibition along with his early-career altered advertisements.
KAWS’s practice acknowledges that works of art can occupy multiple realms—the aesthetic and the transcendent, the commodified and the priceless—and emphasizes that even within a cultural environment shaped by image and consumption, universal emotions such as love, friendship, loneliness, and alienation remain constant. KAWS invites us to engage with his work, both in person and virtually, and explore our own relationship with and connection to objects. Teaming up with Acute Art, a digital art platform directed by acclaimed Swedish curator Daniel Birnbaum, KAWS presents new augmented reality works, allowing visitors to interact virtually with his sculptures using their smartphones to create their own experience.
A fully illustrated catalogue, co-published with Phaidon Press, accompanies the exhibition. Essayists include Daniel Birnbaum, art critic, curator, and director of Acute Art, and Eugenie Tsai, John and Barbara Vogelstein Senior Curator, Contemporary Art, Brooklyn Museum.
KAWS: WHAT PARTY is curated by Eugenie Tsai, John and Barbara Vogelstein Senior Curator, Contemporary Art, Brooklyn Museum.
Leadership support for this exhibition is provided by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. Generous support is provided by Laura and Stafford Broumand, Charles and Ivette Esserman, Todd Kramer and Ryan Ross, Jeanne and Dennis Masel, Skarstedt Gallery, and anonymous donors. Additional support is provided by Bianca and James Jebbia, Yvette Quiazon Liouliakis and Teddy Liouliakis, and Keith Marshall.
Wallpaper donated by Flavor Paper, Brooklyn's wallpaper maker.