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From the streets to the galleries, from a provincial "graffiti artist" to a genius of art, fashion and design. Kaws, aka Brian Donnelly born in New Jersey in 1974, is the artist who with his Companions, the iconic resin statuettes inspired partly by Mickey Mouse and partly by a skull, the Chum, a colorful and collectible version of the Michelin Man, bridged the gap between commercial art and contemporary art.

His creations are partly works of art and partly luxury collectible toys and, not for nothing, they appeal to an audience which, to use the wording of old board games, ranges from 9 to 99 years old.

His story begins in Manhattan in the 1990s where, unlike his "colleagues" Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat, Kaws does not act directly on advertising billboards but develops his own method: he steals them (only the fashionable ones), takes them to study and fills them with skeletons and bones, which become his distinctive motifs. Then he returns them to the world, hanging them exactly in their place.

Strengthened by his great success, he travels, expanding his research and his work to Paris, London and Berlin. The arrival in Tokyo, at the end of the millennium, has the flavor of enlightenment. Struck by collectible games, manga and the obsessions of the Japanese people, he conceived the first Companions. Less than twenty years later, in 2013, a wooden version of Companion that covers its eyes will go up for auction for 1.64 million euros.

And why on earth can a toy be worth so much? Because Companion is not just a toy, but a lucid, bittersweet analysis of the state of our society. If its shape is reminiscent of Mickey Mouse, projecting us into the happy and joyful world of comics, the eyes staring with crosses convey a sense of restlessness and transience. Reassuring because they are linked to the universe of cartoons and, at the same time, fragile and melancholic. Kaws depicts our society, polarized between loneliness and hyper-connection, amplified by social networks.

In March 2019 Companion became a 37 meter installation, a floating sculpture nestled in the port of Hong Kong. A giant mouse relaxing in the water, inviting stressed citizens and tourists to stop for a moment and relax.

Equally famous is Chum, the friend everyone would like, a sculpture inspired by the Michelin Man. Made in the most disparate materials, resin, wood, bronze and fibreglass, Chum is also the protagonist of many paintings which are delivered packaged in packages commissioned from toy factories.

Kaws is disputed by the fashion world. His CV includes collaborations with Nike, Supreme and Dior. For the French fashion house he reworked the logo and created a huge sculpture inspired by Christian Dior and his faithful dog Bobby. Uniqlo, the super trendy low-cost Japanese brand, wanted him for a capsule collection which, at the presentation, generated apocalyptic scenes among the crowd queuing to grab something.

Even the world of music is not indifferent to him. If Pharell Williams commissioned him to design the bottle of his Girl perfume, Kanye West chose him to design the cover of his album.

His numbers are truly record-breaking. In 2019, at Sotheby's Honk Kong, Album, a painting depicting all the protagonists of the Simpsons saga with cross-eyed eyes, was sold for 14.7 million dollars, starting from a base of 700,000.

A colorful version of Chum sold for over 2 million at Sotheby's New York while Clean Slate, the Companion together with two mini-companions, a sculpture representing the next phase of the adorable sad mouse's life, sold for 1,650. 000 in 2018 from Philips Plaza in New York. And these are just some of the many six-figure results that make him one of the most popular artists in the world.

His sculptures sell out before they are even put on the market and the waiting lists are getting longer and longer. There are those who love it, and those who really can't tolerate it, but it is undeniable that Kaws has radically changed the world of art, bringing young and very young people who are not involved in the sector closer to Museums and Galleries. And, regardless of any belief, this is a merit that only great artists can boast.

The artist's works