KAWS: Is it Too Late to Invest?

Investing Guide

KAWS, as I’m sure you are aware, is an American artist that sprung from the graffiti and street art scene, and is currently one of the most in demand artists in the world. His work is known for its bold colors, graphic shapes, and often features characters from popular cartoon characters, such as Mickey Mouse, Peanuts (Snoopy), and the Simpsons.

KAWS companion
KAWS, Along the way (Black), 2019

One of his most recognizable characters (not pulled directly from an already well-loved cartoon) is “Companion”, which is an alien-like figure with X-ed out eyes. You can find this characters featured in various forms, such as prints, sculptures, toys and clothing.

At this point, KAWS is considered an established (if not Blue-Chip) artist in the contemporary art world, and his work has been exhibited in major museums and galleries around the world, such as the Brooklyn Museum, the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, and the Yuz Museum in Shanghai.

A few examples of KAWS’ work that have been considered a good investment by the art market so far, include:

  1. “Companion (Passing Through)” sculpture: In 2017, a sculpture called “Companion” sold at Sotheby’s for $14.8 million, becoming one of the most expensive pieces of street art ever sold at auction.
  2. “Along the Way” sculpture: In 2018, another sculpture of the “Companion” character sold at Sotheby’s for $9.9 million.
  3. “The KAWS Album” print: In 2020, a limited-edition print of “The KAWS Album” sold at Christie’s for $1.4 million, setting a new record for a print by the artist.
  4. “The KAWS Album” painting: From which the print is derived sold for $14.7 million in 2019, beating estimates of a $1.0 million valuation.
KAWS album
KAWS, The Kaws Album, 2005

Overall, KAWS’ work has been a good investment for most people, but it’s important to remember that it depends on when one acquired KAWS’ work. And this is a critical point to consider if you are thinking of investing in his in 2023 and beyond.

While KAWS’ sales statistics appear promising, I have to wonder how long he can sustain the pace of growth he has experienced over the past ten years. According to Artsy, and illustrated below, KAWS’ sculptures over the past 36 months have had an impressive sell-through rate of 95%, meaning that collectors are scooping them up as fast as they can, for prices, on average, 63% above the mid-price estimates at the leading auction houses.

KAWS sales data
KAWS sales data for the last 36 months

I would suggest that the pace at which his work appreciates may start to slow down. This is because, with little innovation or variation in his career, combined with the considerable amount of editions he sells each year, he might be destroying his artwork’s (already shaky) exclusivity. This is far more true for his sculptural figurines (rather than his prints and paintings), which are pumped out in the thousands and still command a premium for their exclusivity. KAWS’ prints and paintings, on the other hand, while still growing at a very healthy rate, in my opinion, have either more scope for growth or less momentum to shed.

Now, suppose you are interested in buying KAWS artwork as an investment. In that case, it’s recommended to focus on his more unique prints and paintings. If you cannot afford the price tag that these works typically command, than I would recommend you look into investing via Yieldstreet’s Art Debt Portfolio I or on Masterworks. The online platforms offer shares in some of the more coveted (and better performing) KAWS’ artworks.

To be clear, none of this article is suggesting that KAWS will be a bad investment, just that his pace of growth might begin to slow. Anyhow, the market for KAWS will be supported by collectors from Asia, which are growing faster than any other region, and who appear to have an insatiable appetite for collectable KAWS figurines.

Check out Masterworks, Public, and Yieldstreet and explore Art Funds that let you purchase shares in million-dollar paintings from blue chip artists like Banksy, Kaws, and Yayoi Kusama.

Read more: Review: Masterworks vs. Yieldstreet
Read more: Review: Masterworks vs Public

We welcome you to Contact Us with any questions you have about investing in art. Let us know your budget, the kinds of art that interest you, and we can work out a plan to get you started with art collecting the right way.