KAWS’ iconic Companion character is joining the ranks of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade later this month in the form of a 40-foot-long balloon, made from urethane-coated nylon. KAWS, real name Brian Donnelly, is one of only five living artists (the others being Takashi Murakami, Tim Burton, Jeff Koons, and Tom Otterness) to be bestowed this honor.
“Companion has been a recurring character for me,” says Donnelly. In the past decade, it has been both a toy and a monumental sculpture. A 16-foot steel version went up in Hong Kong’s Harbour City in 2010 and, later, outside of New York’s Standard hotel. Painted gray, white and brown, the figure poses in a seated position, hunched slightly and covering its eyes. “I was thinking, God, if I had to sit there all day and have a million people pass me and stare, I’d be mortified,” says Donnelly. “That would be the worst experience ever. That’s where the pose came from.” A variation on that Companion will fly on Thanksgiving. “I think this is a first for the parade,” says Macy’s lead designer, John Piper, standing in a roomful of brightly colored clay prototypes at Macy’s 75,000-square-foot parade studio in New Jersey. “It’s the first time we’ve had a character that’s shy.”
It took more than 30 people roughly seven months to make it a reality and is the biggest pieces KAWS has ever done.