This past weekend, I went to an exhibit I was really excited to attend as it featured artwork from one of my favourite artists, Kaws! In this blog post, I will share some pictures and info about the exhibit as well as my thoughts so you have a better idea of what to expect if you plan on visiting. Before you read below, make sure to follow the blog on social media so you don’t miss out on future content about cool exhibits. Feel free to follow me on TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook! For a visual POV, see below.
If you are not familiar with Brian Donnelly aka Kaws, he is an artist based out of Brooklyn who has made a name for himself with his sculptures, paintings, prints, and special collaborations. As someone who loves art, streetwear, and sneakers, I became familiar with Kaws’ work and was drawn to how he took these known pop culture figures into his own (e.g. Companion/Mickey Mouse, Chum/Michelin Man, etc.) with a bit of a dark twist. His collectibles are always sought after and I have seen many celebrities with it in their collection, including the rap line of BTS. Fun fact, J-hope, a member of BTS was a big fan of Kaws and got him to do the album artwork for his debut album which can be seen in this video and at this exhibit!
Location and Tickets
The exhibit is being featured inside the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) and is located at 317 Dundas St W, Toronto, Ontario. There are some paid parking spaces near McCaul Street or limited street parking right outside, but it is easily accessible via public transit. AGO has set dates for their guest tiers as members’ access was from September 27th to October 4th, while annual pass holders can enter from October 4th until October 11th, which is the date it becomes open to the general public. I am not sure about when the exhibit ends but you can see it on the second floor during the AGO operational hours. In terms of tickets and pricing, students are $45, individuals are $110, and member plus guest is $145 CAD. I had a 20% discount which I used to get a new member plus guest membership as I hope to visit again soon. I also ended up doing this because I didn’t know if I would have time to visit in the near future and wanted to avoid crowds to enjoy the experience. Despite it being members-only, there was already a decent amount of people who were exploring the exhibit.
Kaws himself actually came to Toronto for a special opening, since this is his Canadian museum debut and since it is being communicated as an original AGO exhibit. Once I knew about the exhibit coming to Toronto, I reached out to AGO about media coverage and invite so I could have this blog post ready before but I never got a response. However, maybe last week I saw plenty of paid posts from influencers trying to promote the exhibit. It is interesting that this wasn’t a paid exhibit in the AGO but I am not sure if that would be changed once the exhibit is open to the public.
There were different sections in the exhibit broken down into three parts.
As soon as you enter you’ll be greeted by the Kaws family and as you turn right you’ll see two beautiful canvas paintings of chum that feature Kaws known pop style of Chum with vibrant colors and signature branding. You’ll also see a glass display of Kaws collab with Nike and Sacai as well as the J Hope’s Jack In The Box album artwork. There’s this cool sculpture of Companion carrying BFF in the centre of the space as well.
I’m not too sure if this part had a name or not but I call it the sketch work section. You’ll see some cool sculptures once again but what might be the most noticeable is the wall of Kaws and Snoopy collaboration decorated in tiles. On the opposite side of this specific area, something that I enjoyed the most was Kaws’ sketch drawings of his characters and his collaborations including Star Wars and General Mills. Fun fact: I wore the Kaws x Franken Berry t-shirt for this exhibit as I knew not a lot of people would be wearing it and thought it was a cool collaboration.
A popular series of works by Kaws is his parody style of the Simpsons, better known as the Kimpsons. Another fun fact is that one of his Kimpsons paintings sold for $14.8 million at a Sotheby’s auction. Therefore, it was only right there would be a section that featured this artwork. There was also a companion statue as well which was cool but just seemed to be placed there because of the room available.
This next part was essentially the last section of part one. Here you’ll see the special paintings of “Lost Future” and “Bam” in a traditional gallery setting while also seeing a glass display of special Kaws and Sesame Street (I think) plushies. His Reece’s Puffs cereal collaboration artwork was also on display beside two massive sculptures of Companion and Chum which I interpreted as being confused and lost. I believe these statues/sculptures are the ones that were featured in the Brooklyn Museum.
The next part featured two components. The first are wooden sculptures and these sculptures are not as big as the one that was in the Brooklyn Museum but it was still cool to see. The second component is augmented reality. You will have to download the Acute Art app to participate but essentially through this app, you can unlock two Kaws AR statues. Also, you can take photos and videos with this AR art only through the app. Keep in mind it took a while for art to load and at times can be hard to stay till. My tip is to download the app before you go to hopefully make this interactive comportment smoother.
The next part seems to be the section that shares some more recent Kaws work especially when it comes to music. You’ll see a giant accomplice and a Kaws x MTV Moonman statue with the actual-sized version to the left of it. I liked the art that was on display including the cut-off arms and the news display. It was also cool to see Kid Cudi’s artwork and chain on display as well.
Merch and Exclusives
Of course, I had to visit the gift shop to see if there was anything special that was available. There’s one small section dedicated to Kaws where you can get some nice souvenirs including prints, t-shirts, tote bags, books, and more. They had two AGO x Kaws t-shirts for $50 each which is what I would expect for exclusive t-shirts. Something I liked was the Kaws family t-shirt which was $35 and that’s a pretty good deal in my opinion since Kaws pricing is usually higher than that and a graphic tee from Hot Topic is usually $29 I think. I did ask about the figures and other exclusives and the staff members (who were great by the way) mentioned there is some stuff on the way and some that have sold out so it is best to stay connected to their shop’s email list to be notified. I did notice they had some limited prints of the Brooklyn Museum and some other interesting Kaws books, but I think the best souvenirs for the price are the pins and magnets.
Overall and Recommendations
All in all, the exhibit was nice to check out but there were some things I felt could’ve been done better. Firstly, I felt like the way the exhibit was setup it made it seem like they put it wherever it fit so certain prices felt misplaced. I also felt that the last part should’ve been first because it could be a better intro to Kaws’ work in my opinion. Also, I feel like there should be bigger displays used to read about the artwork or at least a QR code to scan a digital copy of the various components within the exhibit. Let me know what your thoughts are if you plan on going or have gone. Let me know in the comments below or on social media by following on TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook as I will be posting more exhibits and Toronto content soon!