While they might now be hidden away with baby books and photo albums, almost every child had a plush dog, rabbit, or frog that never failed to lull them to sleep or magically end their heartfelt sobbing. Now everyone can have that cushy comfort in their sofas and chairs, thanks to the combined creativity of luminary designer brothers Humberto and Fernanda Campana and star artist KAWS, a.k.a Brian Donnelly.
Marc Benda, founder of the gallery where the new pieces are currently being displayed, explained that the collaboration was easy and natural. As he tells it, KAWS was already a fan of the Campana brothers and even owned a few of their pieces, including an inimitable Bolatas chair and an inviting couch constructed from leather teddy bears. KAWS was also aware of their other furniture created from stuffed lions, alligators, tigers, sharks, and pandas. He wanted to fuse their plush furniture with his own toys, resulting in the limited-edition KAWSxCampana collection that exists today.
The setting for the exhibit at Friedman Benda was created by Lelia Arruda, the gallery’s in-house exhibition designer. The booth was lined with petal-pink wallpaper and interspersed with images of KAWS’ signature creatures, each of them complete with crossed-out eyes and round noses. Within, a pink chair, black chair, and pink sofa were perched on round, elevated stands. The wall behind these pieces displayed two oversized plush Xs sewn together to mimic the “hides” of assorted KAWS creations. Curious eyes widened as they absorbed the odd pairing of child-like hues and an overall sense eerie morbidity. Still, the combination felt kind of perfect, and the three pieces sold almost instantly. Benda wouldn’t say who bought the pieces or whether they were bigger fans of KAWS or the Campana brothers, but he did assure everyone that the art would be going to some “pretty amazing homes.”
The Appeal Of Simplicity
Collaboration among complex artists sometimes bears simple results. This trio’s meeting of minds turned out furniture pieces with straightforward metal frameworks covered with 75 to 120 of KAWS’ plush toys, all of them carefully stitched together. Each plush character features two white eyeballs with signature crosses through them, a dainty soft pink button nose, and floppy arms and legs. Every piece is supported by four slim wooden legs, each of which has been slightly angled and given a round end. The crowning glory, a “KAWS” autograph, adorns one foot of each character.
At first consideration, KAWS and the Campana brothers seem like a long-shot combination to produce work that’s both compelling and reflective of their diverse talents. KAWS has teamed up with brands like Air Jordan and Uniqlo in recent years, and the Campana brothers have occasionally swerved off the road of fine design to successfully explore set design and fashion. That shared love of artistic adventure was evident to Humberto Campana from the very beginning. He recalls: “When we first met KAWS, we understood his ability to tell those stories that you will always remember. KAWSxCampana created a common story of referring to memories of childhood, affection, and well being. We are both storytellers.”