After its re-launch, Bangkok's shopping destination Siam Center has made a successful comeback with chic interior design and a cutting-edge concept. To go with the new look, Siam Center is introducing "Siam Center World Art Collectors' Exhibition", a showcase to celebrate art and a chance for visitors to experience top-notch pieces brought to Bangkok from collectors' treasure troves.
Joseph Chen and his collection of toys, including works by Kaws.
Opening today at Siam Center, the event will display two sculptures under the ownership of Taiwanese collector Joseph Chen _ Kaws Accomplice 2010 and Kaws Companion (Five Years Later) 2011 _ for the first time in Thailand.
Kaws is among the world's most famous street artists. Born Brian Donnelly, the American first entered the art world as a freelance animator painting backgrounds for Disney. In the early 1990s, Kaws established himself as a graffiti artist in his hometown New Jersey, followed by New York City where he started to insert his own imagery on billboards, bus shelters and phone booths. After becoming a street culture icon, Kaws began to design and produce limited-edition vinyl toys and later T-shirts, with famous Japanese toy company Medicom Toy under the brand Original Fake.
We recently talked to Joseph Chen at his J. Chen Gallery about his favourite artist and his precious art collection.
When did you become a fan of Kaws?
Kaws Accomplice 2010.
I've been following his work for more than 15 years, back to when he was in New York doing graffiti on the street. At that time, only a small group of people in New York liked him. Then he got the chance to work with Japanese company Medicom Toy, one of the most creative toy companies in the world. And, because of his collaboration, he became famous among Urahara _ an important subculture in the trendsetting community Harajuku in Japan, and Kaws was among the admired names. That's why Kaws' collectors in Hong Kong and I got to know him, because we followed the Urahara. His toys or T-shirts were limited editions. You have to queue up to buy his new products.
After some galleries in the US represented him, he started to create canvas works. Still, only a certain group of people, not yet the high-art collectors, knew what he was doing. Not until Galerie Perrotin found him and signed him, then he became popular as an artist in the last three or four years. Now, it is so difficult to buy his work _ you have to be on a waiting list. And when you look at those names, they are famous art dealers around the world.
As a collector, what was the reason you decided to purchase his art?
The first reason is, of course, I have been a big fan of Kaws for a long time. Secondly, I run a gallery and I collect a lot of works. I invest in art. I am very positive that the value of his art will appreciate.
He's different from Japanese artist Takashi Murakami (who is also famous on the street-art scene) who went from high-art to the street. But Kaws was well known first in the street then with high-art [collectors]. Totally different direction. In Europe there is Banksy, who is known as the most important street artist, in the US, it's Kaws. These two names will definitely become the household names in art history that represented street art, like how Andy Warhol represented pop art.
How many of his artworks do you own now?
I have three paintings and three sculptures.
Could you tell us the price of his works?
The primary price for a painting was about US$100,000 (3 million baht), and for sculptures about $150,000 to $200,000. But, now the prices are beyond these. Now, we don't know how much the prices are because nobody wants to sell.
What impresses you most about his work?
His works are all similar, they are so simple and easy to identify. I think that is so smart. Most street works are so complicated, but if you don't want people to get tired of it and last longer, it must be simple. He has his own identity _ the crossed eyes. He plays with other characters such as Snoopy or Pinocchio.
What else do you collect?
Most of my collections are paintings. I bought various types of Asian, American to Middle-Eastern art. But recently I've been buying a lot of works by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. I think she is one of the most important living female artists in the world today. She has been doing the dots and the nets [art] for over 50 years. If you learn about her life, you'd be really into her and appreciate her art.
About the author
- Writer: Yanapon Musiket
Position: Life Writer