KAWS for Commotion: Scores of People Are Lining Up to Take Selfies With the Artist’s Largest Work to Date in Hong Kong. See Pictures of It Here
You couldn't beat the crowds back with a (selfie) stick if you wanted to.
There aren’t many things people are willing to wait in long lines for. A new Shake Shack? Maybe. A Rihanna concert? Probably. A Supreme sneaker launch? For sure.
But a public KAWS sculpture? Yeah, you can add that to the list of global sensations.
The rise of the American artist, whose real name is Brian Donnelly, to art-market domination and global celebrity has been well documented (we recently published a deep dive into the KAWS phenomenon in our latest artnet Intelligence Report), and his magnetism is on full display in Hong Kong this week ahead of the opening of the latest edition of Art Basel.
Just five minutes from the city’s convention center, along the water and in the belly of Victoria Harbor, lies a 115-foot-long inflatable sculpture, Holiday, the artist’s largest work to date. One of his recurring “Companion” figures—a Mickey Mouse with Xs for eyes—floats on his back, face turned up to the sky. He looks the way we all do after a long day, when we come home and fall backward into bed, limbs splayed out like starfish.
“I was thinking of all the tension in the world, and I wanted to create work that would make people think about relaxing,” KAWS told TIME. “And there’s nothing more relaxing than lying on your back in water and looking up at the sky.”
The sculpture, which previously popped up in Taipei and Seoul, was unveiled in Hong Kong on Friday by the cultural production company AllRightsReserved. (The same company was responsible for the large inflatable rubber duck that floated in the harbor in 2013.)
The project’s curator, Lam Shu-kam, told the South China Morning Post that this rendition took eight months to coordinate; the potential for waves in the harbor required the installation be carefully engineered not to let in water.
Over the weekend, scores of visitors lined up along the water, waiting their turn for one of AllRightsReserved’s bouncer-like guards to let them onto a nearby platform to get the best view of the work available. Selfies abounded, naturally. A handful of younger visitors proudly sported KAWS t-shirts.
As he did for previous stops on Companion’s Asian tour, KAWS released a line of limited-edition toys and products to mark the Hong Kong debut. The products—including a set of three plush Companions for HK$6,125 ($785), a floating bath toy for HK$1,200 ($154), and a tote bag for HK$390 ($50)—went live on at 9 a.m. on Friday Hong Kong time and swiftly sold out.
The artist is also the subject of a survey exhibition at the PMQ mall organized by the Hong Kong Contemporary Art Foundation and prominent Italian curator Germano Celant (on view through April 14). At the opening, where the artist was mobbed by smartphone-wielding fans as if he were a rock star, Celant told artnet News he considers the artist to be part of the lineage of Claes Oldenburg, Keith Haring, and Andy Warhol, all of whom toyed with commerce in art. “The idea of shops is in art history—but with a global market, it’s just being distributed all over the world,” he said.
Instagram, meanwhile, is overflowing with shots of the waterfront tableau—as well as skeptical comments from art-world insiders. But love him or hate him, KAWS is, quite literally, too big to ignore. See more photographs of the larger-than-life installation, which is on view until the end of the month, below.
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