Highsnobiety / Stanley Cheng / Highsnobiety

This week, artnet published its second Intelligence Report, a data driven analysis of the biggest trends and forecasts in the global art market.

This particular report, “Inside the Craze for KAWS,” broke down the extraordinary ascent of an artist who has become a phenomenon without following the art market’s rules. While the Brooklyn-based artist is a favorite for collectors like Kanye West and Travis Scott, some of the art world’s elite don’t seem to have gotten the memo.

As we covered recently in our history of KAWS, the former street-artist has been incredibly successful in building an online following for his toys and collectibles, that then trickled up to some of the most powerful players in the art world.

The artnet report found that in 2018, the artist generated a total of $33.8 million at auction – a 260% increase from the previous year, according to the artnet Price Database. His average sale price also nearly doubled, to $82,063 from $42,272 in 2017. And it’s not just the numbers that talk. KAWS is now collected by some of the biggest names in the art world.

Others, however, are not convinced of his long-term prospects. Art advisor and publisher Josh Baer predicted KAWS’ work will depreciate, telling artnet, “I’m sure he’s a super nice guy and a great businessman. But I don’t think that the history of art will go: Matisse, Pollock, Johns, Basquiat, KAWS. If you think that Paris Hilton and the Kardashians are important cultural figures, then you’re likely to think KAWS is an important artist.”

It seems like this faction might just be a little out of touch as social media becomes increasingly influential on the art-market. KAWS work reproduces faithfully online, drawing bigger and younger audiences to galleries and museums. While they might not be cashed up now, this highly important group will be in the future. This means KAWS might be a safer bet than some of his detractors want to admit.

Weekend Staff Writer

Isabelle is an Australian writer based in Berlin.

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