XX Marks the Spot: Where to Buy a KAWS Drawing for Your Collection

XX Marks the Spot: Where to Buy a KAWS Drawing for Your Collection

Contemporary artists like KAWS are increasingly popular among investors. Learn about the artist and where to buy a KAWS drawing in this guide.

XX Marks the Spot: Where to Buy a KAWS Drawing for Your Collection
Priscilla Thomas

Published Sep 8, 2022Updated Oct 3, 2022

Art & Culture

Art & Culture

NFTs

NFTs

Extra Income

Extra Income

Fine art has been a go-to investment for wealthy folks, and modern blue-chip art continues to hold investment potential for those looking to diversify their portfolios. Since the value of artwork doesn't follow the stock market, investing in art can protect you from market crashes and economic downturns. Plus, it's nice to look at.

"KAWS's work may not be considered fine art on paper, but his paintings have sold for as much as $14.7 million."

Contemporary art, in particular, has grown impressively. Over the past 10 years, its value has increased 132%—with 63% of that growth during the pandemic alone. One of the modern artists enjoying the extra attention is KAWS, a former street artist whose work now sells for millions. Between 2017 and 2018, his average sale price nearly doubled, increasing from $42,272 to $82,063.

Read on to learn about KAWS's origins, his rise to fame, and how you can add a KAWS drawing to your portfolio.

Who is KAWS?

KAWS is an American artist and designer known for his graffiti, sculptures, paintings, and prints. His pop art style has been compared to Keith Haring's for its thick lines and bold colors. KAWS's work often parodies popular cartoon characters like Snoopy and franchises like The Simpsons and SpongeBob SquarePants. He's also known for his original characters, including one called "COMPANION," which might be his most recognizable creation.

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Three versions of the original COMPANION toys, Source: mutualart.com

Brian Donnelly started going by KAWS as a New Jersey high school student. The name was Donnelly's graffiti tag, chosen because he liked the way the letters looked side by side. He began his professional visual arts career in the 90s as an animator for Jumbo Pictures, a Disney studio based in New York. But his reputation as a street artist quickly grew.

His "subvertising" pieces—graffiti integrated into ads on the sides of phone booths and bus shelters—attracted a lot of attention to both the artist and the art. KAWS has said he wasn't making political statements or "culture jamming" with these ads, but they made streetwear designers and high-end fashion marketers want to work with him.

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Four photos of NYC advertisements painted over with KAWS's subvertisements. 

Source: artspace.com

KAWS is also known for his sculptures. In 1999, he designed a toy of COMPANION, which showcased the distinctive KAWS style. The limited run sold out almost immediately. Since then, he's worked with famous artists and brands, and gone big with huge inflatables for the Thanksgiving Parade in New York and Victoria Harbor in Hong Kong.

Where to buy a KAWS drawing

KAWS's work may not be considered fine art on paper, but his paintings have sold for as much as $14.7 million. That means you might not be able to purchase a KAWS drawing of your own, but there are a few platforms that can help you invest in his work.

Masterworks

With Masterworks, you can purchase shares in pieces of artwork. As the work appreciates, you'll earn returns. If the piece is sold, the proceeds are divided between the shareholders. You can also sell your shares on the Masterworks' Secondary Market if you want to cash out early.

masterworks
Masterworks

4.6

Collectibles

Several KAWS drawings have been securitized and sold by Masterworks, some of which have shown 3x appreciation in a year.

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A KAWS painting on Masterworks that appreciated nearly 9x over 3 years.

Source: masterworks.io

Otis 

The self-proclaimed "stock market of culture" offers fractionalized investment in individual assets. The company, now owned by Public, makes sure that each asset is securitized by the SEC before it's broken into shares. Those shares can be bought and sold to other members of the Otis marketplace.

otis
Otis

4.3

Collectibles

A 2012 acrylic painting called "Gone and Beyond" is available to invest in on Otis. It's valued at $325,000 with shares at $100 each.

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"Gone and Beyond" (2012), KAWS, acrylic on canvas. 

Source: withotis.com

StockX

If you want a KAWS drawing all to yourself, the StockX marketplace could be your way in. The platform has become synonymous with sneakers and streetwear, but users also trade art, collectibles, and NFTs on StockX. 

stockx
StockX

Collectibles

Asking prices for KAWS drawings range from about $4,000 to $420,000, but you can use StockX's filters to view historical data like the last sale price of an item, or its volatility. Then, you can make an informed bid on the piece you want. Or, if you're in a 'gimme' mood, you can opt for the "Buy Now" price and wait for your shipment to arrive.

Why is a KAWS drawing valuable?

As with a lot of modern art, those unfamiliar with his work might wonder what would make a KAWS drawing so valuable. In addition to his style and allusions to pop culture, KAWS has gained a following by collaborating with influential brands and artists, attracting the attention of celebrity collectors, and participating in several museum installations and exhibits. All these accomplishments have added value to his work.

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A 2005 KAWS painting that sold for $14.7 million at Sotheby's Hong Kong auction in 2019. Source: sothebys.com

High-profile collabs

KAWS's original COMPANION toys were a collaboration with the Japanese streetwear brand Bounty Hunter. He has also designed apparel collections for Uniqlo and Supreme, but it all started with a fashion collection for Bathing Ape (BAPE). Two pairs of KAWSxBAPE sneakers sold at a Sotheby's Hong Kong auction for about $15,000 in 2019, 100x their pre-sale estimate. KAWS continued his sneaker work with a limited edition design for Nike Air Jordans, featuring his iconic double X's.

Dior worked with KAWS several times to design apparel collections and sculptures that were sold as dolls. Similar dolls were sold at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York. The 2017 launch of this collaboration crashed the museum website. Deadstock KAWS dolls can sell for upwards of $1,000 in the secondary market.

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The KAWS dolls that broke the Internet, Source: vertufineart.com

Other KAWS collaborations have involved music artist like J-Hope of BTS, Travis Scott, Kanye West as well as MTV itself. KAWS designed the cover artwork for Ye's fourth studio album, 808s and Heartbreak. The illustration on the front cover includes gloved hands in the signature KAWS fashion, and the back features a black-and-white photo of Ye surrounded by colorful illustration and designs. 

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A promotional billboard in Times Square featuring KAWS artwork for Kanye West's 2008 album "808s and Heartbreak." 

Source: ny.racked.com

Influential collectors

Several celebrities have shown off their KAWS art collections. Since the mid-2000s, Tobey Maguire and Pharrell Williams have been two of the most prominent fans of KAWS's sculptures and paintings. Rapper and producer Swizz Beatz purchased a 19-foot tall wooden statue—a KAWS colossus—in 2013. While we couldn't track down the cost and value of that massive sculpture, the pair of KAWS statues that appeared in Drake's "Toosie Slide" video were valued at $50,000 to $100,000 in 2020. Their starting price when they were created in 2009 was $6,000—about $8,200 in 2022.

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Pharrell Williams showing off some of his KAWS collection in his Miami home in 2010.

Source: freshnessmag.com

Travis Scott and Kylie Jenner opted for a cushier KAWS piece: a chair made of Felix the Cat plushies. The chair was part of a collaboration with Brazilian designers Humberto and Fernando Campana, and similar pieces from the collection sold for $15,000 to $25,000.

And it's not just celebrities elevating the name and brand of KAWS—the Mugrabi family has included his artwork in their legendary collection, alongside pieces by Picasso, Rodin, and Basquiat.

Impressive installations

KAWS has had exhibits in several museums and galleries including MoMA, The Modern Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, and the Mary Boone Gallery. Some of his installations have garnered a lot of interest.

KAWS and effect

KAWS and effect

Does a KAWS drawing belong in your portfolio?

The Brooklyn Museum, for instance, has featured KAWS's work multiple times, including a retrospective in 2021. The show included 167 pieces and ran for about seven months.

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A KAWS: HOLIDAY pieces on Changbai Mountain in China, Source:highsnobiety.com

Even bigger, COMPANION made a huge impression on 50 million spectators as a balloon in Macy's Thanksgiving Parade in 2012. And in the KAWS: HOLIDAY exhibit, COMPANION traveled around the world in jumbo form. Giant structures have floated in Seokchon Lake in Seoul, sat in the snow on China's Changbai Mountain, and drifted among the hot air balloons in Bristol. They've also journeyed through the digital world in an augmented reality project with the Acute Art app.

Is KAWS a good investment?

Whether you make a fractionalized investment on a platform like Masterworks or purchase a piece all for yourself, physical assets like fine art have historically helped investors hedge against inflation. A KAWS drawing might be a useful investment if you're looking to diversify—and decorate—your portfolio.