Kaws OriginalFake Pillow, Brown, produced by Medicom Toy, $78 sold here
Kaws first became well known as a a graffiti artist around New York by placing his art atop bus stop advertisements, billboards, and walls. He has said he chose the moniker "Kaws" for no other reason than he liked the way the letters looked together in his graffiti script. Today, the artist finds himself in a place many professional artists would like to be: He's famous. But it is not the kind of fame that makes him known exclusively among wealthy collectors and art professionals. Kaws was born in 1974. He is part of generation "X" (an interesting coincidence since he likes to use the "X" in the place of eyes in many of his works). But like many of his generation, he is a man of many income streams. There is the art which can bring in a lot of money. Wikipedia says that the artist's sculpture "Wonderful World" recently sold in Japan for $400,000. There is also the clothing line, the toys, and the knicknacks which appeal to an entirely different group of buyers. These items are affordable and allow a younger consumer to know and appreciate his work.
If creating a future market for his expensive works by grooming his young buyers now is an inventive tactic, then Kaw's ability to interest his own generation is nothing short of marketing genius. By taking familiar and comforting images such as the Smurfs, the Michelan Man, and the Simpsons and transforming them into something entirely new and recognizably "Kaws", Donnelly has enticed a market of buyers who find those images both familiar and new. And as any owner of Andy Warhol's Campbell's Soup cans could tell you: Familar + New = Vast Fortune.
Chum, painted cast vinyl, 2002, 13 X 8.5 X 4, edition of 500, stamped, Philips De Pury (London), Sept. 6, 2008, sold for $1,836