By Sarah Cascone,
Street art and collectibles sensation–turned art market darling KAWS (born Brian Donnelly) unveiled his latest work at New York’s Rockefeller Center this week: an 18-foot-tall bronze sculpture perched above the ice skating rink where the famed Christmas tree lives during the holidays.
The piece, commissioned for the occasion, is titled SHARE, and features KAWS’s Mickey Mouse-like “Companion” character carrying a miniature “BFF” figure, a furry Elmo knockoff the artist first introduced in 2016. Both have the artist’s signature crossed-out eyes. The design was first introduced as a series of vinyl figurines in February 2020.
When deciding what work to create for the public art exhibition, “I was thinking about what this area means to me,” Donnelly said at the sculpture’s unveiling. “The verticality of all the architecture and visiting Rockefeller Center as a kid and looking up and being overwhelmed, I wanted a sculpture that could relate to those feelings.”
“KAWS has created a universal language for anyone who interacts with his instantly recognizable figures,” E. B. Kelly, Tishman Speyer’s managing director overseeing Rockefeller Center, said in a statement. “KAWS’s work subverts expectations while feeling both familiar and stylized.”
Known for his cartoon aesthetic that draws on pop culture references from the Smurfs to the Simpsons, Donnelly is currently the subject of his first New York museum show, “KAWS: What Party,” on view at the Brooklyn Museum through September 5.
“What motivates me? I think communication and having a dialogue with people and having opportunities to put my work into the world,” the artist said, describing his work as “optimistic, personal, [and] inviting.”
In SHARE, the “Companion” is meant to represent a sense of sadness, fear, and isolation, while the smaller “BFF” doll it carries suggest the comfort that so many of us need.
“With the city opening up again and up coming out of the last year that we did, I feel like it’s a really important time to have public art,” Donnelly added.