See KAWS’s Dark and Colorful VR Experience at NYPL

The project is artist Brian Donnelly’s first virtual-reality creation.

KAWS, A VR Experience. Image courtesy of artnet.

“Brian said he wanted it to be a studio visit gone awry,” said Visionaire co-founder Cecilia Dean, of the artist Brian Donnelly’s first VR creation, in which a visit to the artist’s studio transforms into a mordant and startling montage of Donnelly’s ebullient and tormented characters.

Dean, who co-directed the project, KAWS, a VR Experience, with Tino Schaeder, was standing in a sleek red dress in front of a digital display featuring Donnelly’s work at the end of two rows of white chairs lined up dramatically within the neoclassical colonnade of Gottesman Gallery at the New York Public Library.

Platters of colorful cookies emblazoned with the M&M’S logo, and little tins of M&M’S bearing KAWS’s hallmark “X,” were passed around along with champagne. (The candy company sponsored the project for its 75th anniversary).

Among the fashionably clothed crowds, many of which seemed to have walked straight off a catwalk in Paris, were Salon 94 owner Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn as well as artists Peter Saul, Erik Parker, Mark Gonzalez (in a jacket festooned with a blue, pink, and yellow KAWS design), Tumblr’s Valentine Uhovski, and Dean’s Visionaire partner James Kaliardos.

Donnelly was in good spirits. He waved to Greenberg Rohatyn as she put on her VR goggles and greeted a seemingly endless line of fans.

Despite the whimsical atmosphere at the midtown library, it was a heavy night. Around the world protests were raging in response to President Trump’s executive order barring entry into the US to refugees from across the globe and blocking citizens of seven countries. Ironically, Gottesman Gallery, the enormous marble room in which the event was set, was partly financed by the foundation of a Hungarian immigrant, D. Samuel Gottesman, who made his fortune in pulp and paper.

The climate beyond the walls of the library was not lost on those in the room. Dean noted that she saw a new role for brands like M&M’S in this administration where federal funding is about to reach a new low.

“I think of M&M’S as patrons of the arts,” she said, adding that KAWS was given full artistic freedom to create the experience. “Now more than ever, brands have to step up and be the patrons.”


KAWS, a VR Experience will be on view Sunday, January 29 from 1-4pm at The New York Public Library, Gottesman Gallery, 5th Avenue at 42nd Street, New York City, and will be live on Visionaire’s website at 5pm.

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