Enter the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Walk past the older, historical paintings to eclectic sculptures that are colorful, unique and modern. There, visitors will find the KAWS exhibit.
Brooklyn-based artist KAWS is showing his work in Philadelphia for the first time through PAFA. Back in April, PAFA helped organize a preview of KAWS’ work by having one of his 16-foot sculptures at 30th Street Station in April. The Edna S. Tuttleman Director of the Museum, Harry Philbrick, helped make the artist’s idea come to life.
“I had once done a show with KAWS in Connecticut,” Philbrick said. “I arrived at PAFA about two years ago. I realized we had an empty platform in the front, and there had once been a sculpture there but not for a while. I wanted to commission a new sculpture, so we [reached] out.”
Reaching out was a success, and KAWS created the sculpture for PAFA, making it PAFA’s first contemporary art piece. There is a clear contrast between the historic and contemporary art, but Philbrick said this as a great opportunity for strong dialogue between the two types.
“I hope that this means people will be open to all kinds of art,” Philbrick said.
The exhibit interacts with other pieces by being placed around or in front of the artworks in order to be seen in conjunction. Philbrick said he has already noticed an increasing amount of younger visitors to PAFA who has come to view the exhibit since its start on Oct. 12.
KAWS’ method of work involves taking imagery from media and pop culture and manifesting it into his own views through art. Philbrick said he believes this is a part of why he is popular.
“He mediates popular culture and puts a human touch on it,” Philbrick said. “He draws imagery from mass media, it’s very reflective of our time.”
More than 60 pieces of art, including paintings and sculptures, are on display on the inside and outside of PAFA’s Historic Landmark Building. The first sculpture visitors see is located at the front of the building and stands at almost 10 feet tall.
KAWS’ exhibit has also brought a taste of New York’s art scene to Philadelphia.
“The main difference is that there seems to be a vibrant art scene in Philly,” Philbrick said. “It’s still a lot more affordable in Philly, so a lot of young artists are working here. The center of the gallery world would definitely still be New York. I would like to see more dialogue between New York and Philly. That could be potentially really great.”
Temple students and faculty can see the KAWS exhibit for free during regular business hours at PAFA if they bring their ID. The exhibit will last until Jan. 5.
Chelsea Finn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org