the art collectors catch up with Mónica Ramírez-Montagut, the curator behind KAWS’ recent Retrospective show at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum. A selection of questions and answers can be seen below.
With such an eclectic body of both fine art and commercial projects to draw upon from the last 15 or so years, can you talk about the process of selecting work for the very first retrospective look at KAWS? For example, some things were absent, like the phone booth/bus stop ads that many consider the beginning of KAWS’ recognition by a public audience.
We are showing two phone booth ads, the Calvin Klein ones from 1999 with the skull, x-ed eyes and crossbones. We did want to focus on his new work, since the past work is very well known among his collectors. However, as many visitors will be looking at his work for the first time, we wanted to provide a small peek into his vast output, including design and street art, so as to show the creativity that permeates everything. KAWS has so much work that we could have organized an exhibition four times this size, so we really had to narrow it down to what would give an overall view and also look good.
The exhibition was able to provide a broad survey, drawing almost exclusively from the artist’s own collection. Was there a decision early on not to incorporate works from private collections? I imagine that could present a whole other set of challenges.
For the artwork (paintings and sculptures), we wanted to show exclusively new work. For design objects, since KAWS keeps copies of everything, we decided to consolidate our loan and have everything come from him. Borrowing objects from all over the world would have been too complicated and wasn’t necessary. We are showing work, like the collaboration with photographer David Sims, that KAWS has retained for himself because it is a unique series; it has never before been exhibited*. That is also the case with some of the ink drawings—he is the only one who owns that type of work.
*Note: The Sims collaborations have never been seen in the U.S. and were only shown once, in 2001 at the KAWS – Tokyo First exhibit, Parco Gallery, Japan.
The show is divided into two rooms with works spanning a multiple of distinct mediums including painting, drawing, large scale sculpture, a site-specific installation, various commercial products, and collaborative projects. What was the approach and what challenges were there to incorporating all this into the Museum and show?
We wanted to mix the disciplines somewhat, so in the gallery with the paintings and the sculptures we included the prototype toy of Pinocchio, to enter into dialogue with the large-scale work with which it has a lot in common. In the other room, where we placed more design objects, we included packaged paintings and the David Sims series that are also unique works. We tried to have them be in dialogue, showing what they have in common as opposed to what they do not.