martes, 31 de marzo de 2020


Justin Kamp

KAWS, COMPANION (EXPANDED), 2020. Courtesy of KAWS and Acute Art.

Earlier this month, the art world superstar Brian Donnelly, a.k.a. KAWS, debuted a new set of his wildly popular “Companion” characters. But unlike his eminently collectible, limited-edition vinyl figures, this new endeavor consisted primarily of geolocated pixels.

The project, a collaboration between the artist and the digital art platform Acute Art, featured 12 augmented-reality versions of KAWS’s “Companions” floating above 11 cities across the globe, viewable only through Acute Art’s app. Dubbed “EXPANDED HOLIDAY,” it was a digital expansion of “KAWS:HOLIDAY,” a series of installations of large-scale inflatable sculptures around the world. Alongside public “installations” of the digital figures, the new project offers users the opportunity to acquire timed, subscription-based editions for $7 per week or $30 for a month. The company had also planned to release 25 limited-edition sculptures for permanent acquisition for $10,000 each. Donnelly ultimately decided to delay the release of these works in light of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Birnbaum said the company hopes to move forward with the permanent digital editions at a later date. In the meantime, in light of the pandemic, the company has extended the collaboration with free miniature (virtual) KAWS sculptures, which are available until April 15th.

KAWS, COMPANION (EXPANDED) in Paris, 2020. Courtesy of KAWS and Acute Art.

The $10,000 price tag for a digital edition is a higher price point than the average KAWS collectible. A Phillips auction of the artist’s work in December saw most vinyl figurines selling for figures between $1,500 and $5,000. But the digital editions are still relatively affordable in the context of his larger market, which saw a new auction record of $14.7 million set last year at Sotheby’s in Hong Kong.
The commercial aspects of the collaboration between KAWS and Acute Art would seem novel in any context, pushing the possibilities for selling both virtual- and augmented-reality art. In the midst of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, with most of the art world going online, it seemed to offer a sophisticated way to interact with art while remaining socially distanced.

When Acute Art was founded in 2017, the commercial viability of virtual- and augmented-reality art had not been extensively explored. “VR is older, but it was a super-specialist thing,” said Daniel Birnbaum, Acute Art’s artistic director. “VR as something that people can use—where you can actually reach an audience—is a relatively recent thing. It was already a little bit further ahead in the architecture world, in certain kinds of entertainment, in the film world, but very few artists have done anything with VR.”………………

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