As His Market Explodes, KAWS Parts Ways With Longtime Dealer Perrotin to Show Exclusively With Skartstedt

Skarstedt has represented the artist for the last year and a half.

KAWS at the Tribeca Ball. Photo by Joe Schildhorn courtesy of BFA.
KAWS at the Tribeca Ball. Photo by Joe Schildhorn courtesy of BFA.

Graffiti artist-turned-art market phenomenon KAWS has split with longtime dealer Perrotin and will be exclusively represented by Skarstedt Gallery of New York and London. KAWS had his first show at Skarstedt in New York last November.

“We’ve represented KAWS for about a year and a half, and look forward to continuing to do so,” Skarstedt director Alison Ward told artnet News. The gallery—which represents other market heavyweights including George Condo and Martin Kippenberger (though not exclusively)—has an upcoming show of KAWS’s work planned for October in London.

Perrotin, which has locations in New York, Paris, Tokyo, Seoul, and Shanghai, has worked with KAWS since 2008, and they rose in tandem to become art-market forces. The dealer was introduced to the artist by rapper Pharrell Williams, who, along with music producer Swizz Beatz, is one of KAWS’s major champions.

“We are very proud of the work we did with KAWS over these 11 years,” Emmanuel Perrotin told ARTnews, which first reported the split. “Considering all the pressure, this collaboration has come to an end. In any case, we will be satisfied if his career continues to develop in a good way and we wish him all the very best moving forward.”

KAWS's installation in Taipei. Photo: © All Rights Reserved.

KAWS’s installation in Taipei. Photo: © All Rights Reserved.

KAWS, whose real name is Brian Donnelly, has become a bona fide cultural phenomenon in recent years, growing his oeuvre from limited-edition toys to multi-million dollar paintings while setting up lucrative collaborations with brands like Dior and UNIQLO. (A literal riot broke out over a KAWS-UNIQLO merchandise drop last month in China.)

In April, a new auction record for the artist was set with the $14.8 million sale at Sotheby’s in Hong Kong—the price was almost 20 times the low estimate and more than five times his previous high. The artist is also preparing for his first institutional New York solo show, slated for 2021 at the Brooklyn Museum. Currently, “KAWS: Alone Again” is on view at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit through August 4.

KAWS, THE KAWS ALBUM, which sold for $14.8 million at Sotheby's Hong Kong, setting a new record for the artist. Courtesy of Sotheby's.

KAWS, THE KAWS ALBUM, which sold for $14.8 million at Sotheby’s Hong Kong, setting a new record for the artist. Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Speaking recently to artnet News, Perrotin admitted that he expected KAWS might be on his way out. “I doubt he will continue with us for long,” he said, noting that their success together “might be not enough to be able to keep him in my roster.” It is unclear whether KAWS will join forces with another international dealer moving forward—Skarstedt has locations in New York and London, but nowhere in Asia, where KAWS has proven extremely popular.

Skarstedt is a relatively recent KAWS convert, agreeing to work with the artist only after Alberto Mugrabi, a dedicated KAWS collector, spent a year talking the gallery into it. Owner Per Skarstedt told artnet News earlier this year: “We always like to do our homework before we sign on a new artist.”


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