Originating as early as the 18th century, the line between high and low art has long been argued, but what of the artists that want to tear the barrier down?
Jeff Koons, Kaws and Whatshisname celebrate the fun to be had with these so-called lower art forms, using their position as popular and talented artists to appeal to all walks of life. The following artists take childhood toys, nostalgic imagery and familiar objects and elevate them to new heights, taking the innocence of these motifs and imbuing them with new meaning.
Blending high and low influences, nostalgic art is often a witty look back on much-loved memorabilia of the past. From teddy bears to balloon animals to fun figurines, these artists turn to their childhood memories and the collective nostalgic memory for inspiration. Discover art by Jeff Koons, Be@rbrick, Kaws and Whatshisname in this sculpture-focused celebration of art.
On the surface these fun artworks may seem humorous and lighthearted, but often they carry a deeper meaning. Often for artists like Kaws or Whatshisname, within this nostalgic joy lies an undertone of criticism. Whether it is a criticism of commercialism, like Kaws’ art, or of celebrity culture and consumerism like Jeff Koons, these childhood-inspired artworks are often hiding something slightly more serious under the surface.
Sometimes inspiration comes from your peers, not just the history books. Whatshisname's much-adored balloon dog sculptures, for example, were inspired by the work of Jeff Koons, using the famed artist's original pieces as a canvas for creativity. Beginning as a parody of Koons' work, Whatshisname's balloon artworks are now a best-selling collection of sculptures and prints in their own right.
Just as the Be@rbrick sculptures draw from artists, brands and fashion, Whatshisname draws inspiration from Koons’ popular artworks. The artworks we have chosen to celebrate here draw from an amalgamation of influences that only serve to make them more enriching and full of life.
Kaws is a graffiti artist and designer that is famous for his nostalgic sculptures. Taking the familiar iconography of teddy bears, figurines and school anatomy sculptures, Kaws then gives his designs a signature street art twist. Kaws' sculptures are endearing and relatable, yet they are also seen as an astute critique of the commercialism of childhood. We love how the artist takes the childhood familiarity of these objects and uses them in his arguments against consumer culture.
The Be@rbrick bear figures have become highly collectible sculptures produced by the Japanese company MediCom Toy. Champions of the designer art toy movement, these endearing figurines are representations of anthropomorphised bears that move at the joints. The wide array of bar figures is down to the numerous collaborations with other artists and brands, including the likes of Kaws, Chanel, Nike and Takashi Murakami. Be@rbrick has taken a generic toy and elevated it to new heights, giving each iteration a life and personality of its own.
Neo-pop artist Jeff Koons is widely regarded as one of the most influential artists of the 21st century. Famous for his sculptures that depict everyday objects, Koons tackles popular culture with his witty balloon animals with stainless steel surfaces. The artist plays with ideas of taste, pleasure, celebrity culture and commerce, creating an unforgettable style that is often viewed as ironic. Koons’ art borrows from art historical styles such as concept art and pop art, formulating his own amalgamation of influences - a completely unique mode of expression.
Polish-born artist Whatshisname’s satirical designs are a humorous take on popular culture, particularly the work of American artist Jeff Koons. The anonymous artist’s playful artworks are a fun homage to childish balloon animals, often placing them in playful and creative positions that appeal to the cheeky side in all of us. Drawing the audience in with his witty sculptures and limited edition prints Whatshisname is always one step ahead of his audience. From his parodist sculptures to public projects, every Whatshisname artwork is a visually powerful pop culture statement.
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