The Most Expensive KAWS Art Pieces at Auctions
Brian Donnelly aka KAWS is currently one of the leading figures when pop art is concerned.
Starting as a graffiti artist, KAWS quickly climbed the ladder to the art galleries worldwide, becoming a significant figure in the contemporary art world.
Drawing his inspiration from the popular culture iconography, KAWS has developed a unique style which blurs the lines between fine arts, illustration, and commercials. He is also one of the artists who has proved the art skeptics wrong when it comes to the value of vinyl toys, showing that their place is not to be underestimated in the luxury art market.
And while we’re talking about the art market you must be interested to see how successful are KAWS’ pieces at the auctions. Therefore, we bring you the list of most expensive KAWS’ pieces, finishing our list with the no.1. Can you guess what it is?
KAWS: Where the End Starts explores the artist’s prolific career in depth, featuring key paintings, sculptures, drawings, toys, and fashion and advertising designs. This extensive monograph, including contributions from Andrea Karnes, Michael Auping, Dieter Buchhart and Pharrell Williams, reveals critical aspects of KAWS’ formal and conceptual development over the past 20 years, as his career has shifted from graffiti to fine art and collaborations with designers and brands such as Comme des Garçons, SUPREME, Nigo (A Bathing Ape) and Nike.
Created in 2008, the Untitled artwork reinvents the Smurfs cartoons. KAWS Smurfs popularly known as Kurfs were also the major series in the artist’s work.
This particular piece went way beyond its high estimate at Sotheby’s New York in November 2013. The artwork was sold for $240,000, fetching 60% more than the $150,000 estimate. A good day for KAWS and Sotheby’s surely.
Here, we will once again discover that collectors have a keen interest in Sponge Bob for some reason. Entitled Fury and created by KAWS in 2008, this painting captures the scene of anger and rage coming from the whimsical yellowish character.
It was also very successful at Christie’s, New York in September 2014, achieving the price of $240,000, 20% over the high estimate.
Here is the complete auction report!
The work was offered by Tajan Paris during the Post-War and Contemporary Art Sale on December 7th, 2017, reaching a hammer price of $249,638.
A perfect embodiment of the artist’s visual vocabulary, Chum features a figure inspired by the Michelin man. Appropriating this fictitious character of pop culture, the artist transformed him into a unique creation. The work also features his artistic trademark – a cartoon-style skull reminiscent of pirate flags, with cross-bones as ears and its now characteristic crossed-out eyes. Turning the figure into a hybrid creature, it creates a disturbing and reassuring feeling in the viewer. Despite the certain anxiety which the work inspires, the Chum seems to be running towards us to the rescue.
Ten Feet Accomplice (Black), 2010
After Companion, KAWS’ Ten Feet Accomplice in black is possibly one of the most recognizable KAWS characters. This monumental sculpture made in Fibreglass and rubberized paint was created in 2010 and sold in May 2014 at Sotheby’s New York for $250,000.
The estimated price for the piece was between $250,000 and $350,000. Although it was sold for the low estimate, the black Accomplice is still the second most expensive piece on the list and surprisingly the first sculpture.
Half Empty, 2012
Departing from his famous figurines, KAWS also created paintings, like the 2012 piece Half Empty.
Before getting sold at Christie’s New York in 2017 for as much as $396,500 (28% over its high estimate!), the work belonged to Galerie Perrotin, and was part of their 2012 exhibition IMAGINARY FRIENDS.
Click here for details about the artwork!
(i) Small K Landscape; (ii) Small B Landscape; (iii) Small M Landscape; (iv) Small H Landscape [Four Works]
If you are a fan of The Simpsons, you will guess the “landscapes” of this KAWS piece – his sixth most expensive sold at auctions to date.
Divided into four squares, it depicts the tops of the heads of four prominent characters from the popular series.
It is another painting, acrylic on canvas to be precise, which was created in 2001 and was sold at Sotheby’s in May 2017 for $320,000.
Click here for details regarding these pieces!
Seated Companion, 2001 
The next two Companions are almost identical, yet they achieved two different prices at two different auctions.
They are both bronze sculptures, depicting a desperate companion, seated.
The first one sold at Phillips in May 2017 for $333,926, barely over its high estimate, as the officially 5th most expensive KAWS art piece at auction.
Visit Seated Companion artwork page for details!
Seated Companion, 2001 
The other Seated Companion, which seems to differ from the first in the colors of the wings on his head, went for $337,346 at Christie’s in September 2017.
This was the first and the only time so far that this artwork has been offered at a sale!
Pressure Parade, 2011
Offered by Phillips London during their 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale on June 27th, 2018, the work reached a hammer price of $345,401.
This work fits into KAWS’s recognizable visual language with its block, artificial colors, bold use of line, stylisation and cropping of the composition to the point of abstraction. Once again, the artist bridged the gap between fine art and mass media imagery. Appropriating the imagery of the cartoon series The Smurfs, the artist created an abstracted blue smurf figure surrounded by exploding white graphics which recalls the energetic animation of its source imagery. This work belongs to a series of paintings the artist coined as kurfs.
In The Woods (Triptych), 2002
This three-part canvas of a quite monumental size, 147.6 cm x 275.3 cm, depicts a female Companion by KAWS, sitting on the grass in the woods accompanied by all sorts of animals.
In The Woods (Triptych), the third most expensive KAWS art piece (sold for $350,000 at Sotheby’s Contemporary Curated in March 2016) isn’t exactly a fairy-tale happy scene – the color of the sky might be blue, but the characters are dipped in eerie, deep black, as if announcing a dreadful fate of the protagonist Companion.
Read more about In The Woods performance at auction here!
Ten Feet Accomplice (Pink), 2010
The second most expensive artwork by KAWS ever to be sold at an auction is Ten Feet Accomplice (Pink). It comes as a bit anticlimactic after his black Accomplice and a bit surprising that it wasn’t one of his Companion sculptures.
Nonetheless, this piece is definitely winning the race. Coming in the edition of three, the pink Accomplice has achieved a significant price. Estimated between $240,000 and $400,000 the piece was sold for $352,000 at Phillips, De Pury & Luxembourg auction house in London. 12% below the high estimate but still in the top 3 of the list and more leading in front of the other artworks by more than $100,000.
See details on Ten Feet Accomplice (Pink) here!
Yellow Doorway, 2001
In October 2017, Sotheby’s Hong Kong offered Yellow Doorway, another KAWS painting, created in 2001.
At the hammer price of $397,135 ($489,373 with Buyer’s Premium), it is his most expensive art piece out there at the moment.
This artwork, as many before and after it, comes as a take on The Simpsons, meant to be “universally understood and to surpass language and cultural barriers.”
It is a part of the Kimpsons series, which tries to subvert the classic cartoon characters we all know too well, and to reconfigure them with exaggerated emotions that can be easily understood by anyone.
It famously features the crossbones and the X-ed eyes, as the artist’s signature motifs.
Offered by Phillips Hong Kong during their 20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Evening Sale, this work had the highest estimated price of $382,341 but reached the hammer price of stunning $548,022.
Reimagining one of the most absorbing personalities in contemporary culture, KAWS created Untitled featuring KAWSBOB. Executed in matter red tones, the character is stripped of his typically cheery yellow hue, reflecting the artist’s signature crossed-out eyes and abstraction. Although the character is recognizable through its eyes, nose and teeth, the portrait is strangely cropped, removing Spongebob from his usual underwater environment.
Running Chum - Bus Stop, 2001
Offered by Phillips London during their 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, the had the highest estimated price of $465,095 but reached the hammer price of $584,691.
The present work features his recognizable character Chum, based on the Michelin Man. Appropriating the most recognizable trademarks of advertising, this character rendered with the artist’s recognizable crossed eyes incorporates a childlike humor. “I wanted to work within the language of the ad, to form a dialogue,” the artist explained. Zoomed in and cropped out, the character is rendered in his characteristically clean-cut graphic use of line and glossy finish.
Final Days, 2014
Offered by Phillips Hong Kong during their 20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Evening Sale on May 27th, 2018, the work reached a hammer price of $586,256.
Final Days is a truly global character from KAWS’ distinctive oeuvre. It features an idolized alteration of a hatless Kurf, rendered with a trademark crossed-out eyes, bones imitating hair and ears, distorted mouth and impeccable fabrication. For the first time in his practice, the artist used the extremely durable afrormosia wood from Africa, embodying a certain spiritual energy within a work.
Offered by Phillips London during their 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale on March 9th, 2018, the work had the highest estimated price of $708,837 but reached the hammer price of $779,721.
This is another version of the artist’s Accomplice but created at a towering height. Referencing a pink Bugs Bunny, the sculpture is an adult-sized toy, injecting humor into more mature notions of life and death. Drawing upon a connection to the art historical tradition of figurative sculpture, the work fuses childhood whimsy with a melancholic twist.
Keep Moving, 2012
Offered by Phillips London during their 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, the work had the highest estimated price of ]$354,418 but reached the hammer price of the unbelievable $1,063,256! This is certainly the most expensive KAWS artwork ever sold!
The Mickey Mouse character has featured prominently in the work of KAWS. Although we only see his arms in Keep Moving, he is rendered to be instantly recognizable. Showing his arms cut off with blood dripping from the violent incision, this lovely childhood character is placed in an unexpected gore context. Mickey’s white gloves feature artist’s trademark crosses.