KAWS & Effect: As His Own Fame Grows, Brian Donnelly Avidly Collects Art
Art Business

KAWS & Effect: As His Own Fame Grows, Brian Donnelly Avidly Collects Art

Brian Donnelly in his studio in Brooklyn on a sofa designed by Osvaldo Borsani in 1954 surrounded by riches from his collection. DONALD STAHL FOR ARTNEWS In 1999, Brian Donnelly, then in his mid-twenties, dropped by David Zwirner gallery in SoHo to pick up a drawing he’d purchased online for $1,900. It was the first artwork he ever acquired, a drawing of a housefly by Raymond Pettibon. In the upper left corner Pettibon had scrawled the letters SWAK, an acronym for “sealed with a kiss” that also evoked the sound of a flyswatter. For Donnelly, the letters had a third meaning—as the name he used as an artist spelled backward: KAWS. Donnelly was no stranger to SoHo. Throughout the ’90s—when he was painting his snake-like Bendy character on ads in bus shelters and phone booths—he popped into P.P.O.W. gallery regularly to pepper co-founder Wendy Olsoff with questions about the Chinese-American artist Martin Wong. “She was nice and let me waste her time,” Donnelly said recently, standing next to a painting by Wong that hangs in the Brooklyn home he shares with his wife and two young daughters. “I wanted to buy something but I had no money.” Ten years […]

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