Kaws: What Party! Street art sculptures exhibit at Brooklyn Museum. Fotografiska New York, Tom of Finland photos.

kaws what party entrance brooklyn museum new york

Party on, Kaws! Very glad I took a leap and went to NYC last summer. Travel is increasingly difficult to plan these days…

I spent my time in New York outdoors and at museums (I’m playing it safe, and keeping masked and distanced). One of my favorite memories: seeing the pop-perfect street art exhibit “Kaws: What Party” at  Brooklyn Museum.

kaws passing through crying companion statue

You may recognize Kaws’ skull-headed and X-eyed Companion: the cute character features prominently in his artwork and merchandise. In this 2021 exhibition, his newest figures have distraught poses and emotions, which reflect our era of disease and collapse.

Read on for my review of Kaws: What Party, as well as a tour of the Fotografiska NY, which has become one of my favorite museums in Manhattan.

Outfit credits: Botanic mini-dress by For Love and Lemons, shoes Anthony Wang,

exterior brooklyn museum ny yo sign building

The Brooklyn Museum greeted me with a “Yo”! It’s easy to arrive by subway from Manhattan; the museum is at the corner of Prospect Park, near the Botanic Gardens. Look for an enormous Beaux-Arts building built in 1895, which holds 1.5 million works of art.

(PS: You can find my sunglasses and other clothing from my wardrobe for sale, on my @lacarmina Depop shop.)

kaws two wooden companions friends arm in arm

The Brooklyn Museum contains both ancient and modern works, and has rotating exhibits starring leading contemporary artists — like Kaws. In the lobby, guests are greeted by a giant wood statue of two Companions, posing arm-in-arm. (Masks and timed entry tickets are required.)

(My off-the-shoulders dress is by For Love and Lemons. More dresses from this designer below:)


flayed companion kaws exhibition art

Also known as Brian Donnelly, Kaws is a Brooklyn-based artist famous for his cheeky twists on cartoon icons and pop culture.

His cute characters include Companion (left), a Mickey Mouse type figure with X-ed out eyes and skull-and-crossbones features. On the right, he also created Chum (a spin on Michelin Man) and BFF (who looks like Sesame Street’s furry Elmo).

kaws red chum michelin man what party exhibit bklyn

The Brooklyn Museum’s enormous galleries were perfect for showcasing Kaws’ bright and bulbous characters. Many spaces seemed set up for Instagram, reflecting the theme of blurred lines between art, consumption and appropriation.

(Photos by Joey Wong)


Kaws: What Party includes the artist’s works in all sizes and media, including life-sized sculptures, from the 1990s to today. Here is Gone Companion Grey, carrying BFF Pink.

Kaws’ cute yet subversive characters are (not surprisingly) immensely popular in Japan and Hong Kong, where they feature in a variety of vinyl figures, fashion, and other collectibles.

kaws simpsons painting canvas nigo

Kaws decapitates The Simpsons, mixes up the XX-eyed heads and seats them back on their iconic couch. Fine art, mass culture, or a bit of both?

He puts similar spins on The Smurfs, Peanuts, SpongeBob, Star Wars, Pinocchio, Astroboy, and Sesame Street.

kaws the simpsons heads paintings art cartoon

Kaws works with bright flat colors and simple shapes, which are unexpectedly resonant. Pretty much anyone can recognize these Simpsons characters from the top of their heads alone. (I added my long purple hair to the mix.)

kaws separated street pop art installation 2021 brooklyn

Kaws (Brian Donnelly) produced poignant new works for his What Party retrospective at Brooklyn Museum. The crying “Separated” statue reflects our days spent in isolation, while “Tide” shows Companion struggling to stay afloat in a dark ocean.

kaws urge paintings hands contemporary artist

The uncertainty of 2020 inspired “Urge,” which shows Chum with hands all over his face. The 10-canvas piece is colorful and humorous, yet communicates the fear of touching and spreading disease.

brian donnelly kaws artist japanese kawaii tokyo

It’ll be interesting to see how lockdown and instability will inspire works from a generation of artists, like Kaws.

for love and lemons botanic dress off shoulder minidress strapless

No hugs or touching. No eyes for him, no mouth for me!

(My Botanic floral embroidered nude dress is For Love and Lemons, see more below:)


kaws star wars darth vader figurines statues

Kaws has collaborated on a number of vinyl toys and other collectibles. Quite fitting that his Star Wars figurines are a hit (as the film series has perhaps the most successful merchandising ever). Darth Vader and Stormtroopers get the Companion treatment, with strong attention to detail and textures.

kaws blue bff cookie monster statue sculpture sesame street sofa

On the left, his Gang sofa is a collaboration with Brazilian artist, Estudio Campana. Many kids grow up sitting on the couch watching Sesame Street, so why not sit on stuffed toys of Ernie, Bert, and more?

On the right, Blue BFF has a wooly texture and looks like Elmo from the children’s show.

kaws mural new york wall art painting city map

Kaws started out as a graffiti artist, tagging his name around Brooklyn and NY. What Party includes some of his earliest works such as manipulated poster ads, as well as pencil sketches of his kawaii characters.

astroboy kaws anime japan manga figures

Kaws is sometimes described as a pop artist. Is this a snap from the museum’s art exhibition, or the gift store catalog? And is there a difference?

kaws what party brian donnelly sculptures statues retrospective

The “Flayed Open Companion” comments on whether there is anything substantial beneath the glossy surface. (Looks like there are some guts and sinew involved.)

kaws snoopy peanuts art cartoon

Snoopy and other Peanuts characters get deconstructed. Uniqlo released a popular clothing and plush toys line with Kaws, which again breaks apart the hierarches of art and commerce.

For Love & Lemons Botanic Strapless Dress in Nude Floral

The pink entryway matched my Botanic Strapless Dress in Nude Floral dress, by For Love and Lemons. More designs below:


kaws pinocchio wood sculpture x eyes

Although I was glad to travel again, there remain so many fears and ups-and-downs, with no end in sight. Kaws’ sculptures reflect the zeitgeist; quite a few are slouched or bawling.

auction kaws michelin man painting poster

The Michelin-esque Chum is usually depicted running, or in poses that convey energy.

kaws what party review brooklyn nyc museum catalogue

Now, the party is over. Chum is bright red and bows his head in a stoic posture, reflecting the disillusionment and stand-still of our times.

rare largest kaws sculptures two friends companions

I particularly loved Kaws’ Godzilla-sized works. The exhibit included video of a 121-foot-long inflatable Companion, who floated on his back through Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour in 2019.

kaws the nature of the need cut off mickey mouse arms hands

When Mickey Mouse faces disarmament… This one is called “The Nature of Need.” (Kaws once worked as a cartoon background illustrator for shows like Daria and Doug.)

kaws famous art show gallery studio brian donnelly

The Kaws show has now closed, but there are other exciting exhibits on the horizon at Brooklyn Museum.

kaws paintings gift shop store brooklyn museum

In addition to contemporary art, you can easily spend a day here seeing African, Asian, Islamic, classical and other works from various centuries.

kaws character sketches gift shop collectibles limited edition figurines

Many Kaws vinyls have become rare collectibles. Above are concept drawings, and a Holiday Space silver figure.

kaws outer space hong kong floating

Kaws scaled new heights by sending an astronaut Companion to space (well, the stratosphere) in a sounding balloon. I can’t wait to see what he does next.

visit brooklyn museum tickets entry

Follow me to Brooklyn Museum for encounters with art that will leave you feeling inspired.

(The bright yellow Oy/Yo sculpture by artist Deborah Kass stands at the entrance, and is oh-so NY.)

tom of finland photographs exhibit fotografiska new york city

And now… follow me to the Fotografiska NYC, one of best photography museums on the planet. The ever-changing installations focus on boundary pushing photographers from diverse countries and backgrounds.

I was keen to see “Tom of Finland: The Darkroom” — a collection of portraits that served as reference images for his iconic homoerotic drawings.

During the mid-century, Tom of Finland (aka Touko Laaksonen) risked imprisonment for his art, as homosexuality was considered criminal. He courageously took photos of gay men in uniforms, rubber and fetish gear, staring defiantly at the camera.

tom finland gay men photos mural art

Perhaps you’ve seen his racy and highly masculinized drawings, which he had to hide during most of his lifetime.

As the Fotografiska puts it, “Tom’s depictions of queer culture thoroughly challenged contemporary society, and solidified his place as one of the most influential artists of the twentieth century.”

miles aldridge fashion photography exhibit show

Each floor of the museum highlights a different photographer. This one was dedicated to “Miles Aldridge: Virgin Mary, Supermarkets, Popcorn” — displaying his vivid, cinematic photos from the past 20 years.

miles aldridge virgin mary suparmarkets popcorn

Miles is known for his stylized portraits, often with celebrities as the models. He shoots exclusively in film, and is a talented colorist with a knack for bringing out acidic hues.

fashion models photographs miles aldridge

Miles’ imagery often hints at a sinister underbelly to the flawless facade of domestic bliss.

Yijun Liao couple boyfriend photographs relationship

On each floor of the Fotografiska New York, you’ll discover a photographer with a distinct and thought-provoking point of view. Pixy Liao: Your Gaze Belongs to Me was a personal favorite.

The Chinese artist challenges our ingrained notions of gender and gaze, in a series of self-portraits with her submissive Japanese boyfriend. (This one is called “Start your day with a good breakfast together” — how can you say no to that!)

Pixy Liao your gaze belongs to me photo show

In the exhibit, Pixy Liao (aka Yijun Liao) shares photos from her ongoing project called “Experimental Relationship.” She stares at the lens, and portrays herself in dominant roles next to her younger male partner. The images are a warm, playful and often surreal subversion of gender expectations. 

chinese artist pixy liao fotografiska nyc china photographer

Pixy Liao’s films are equal parts entertaining and provocative. She created a “breast spray” bottle, inspired by a woman who robbed a store by shooting breastmilk into the cashier’s eyes.

pixy liao japanese boyfriend Experimental Relationship

Pixy explains, “When the breast is shooting out milk, it is both feeding and attacking, which are almost opposite behaviors. My boyfriend is enjoying/accepting/enduring the milk coming out.”

chinese women artists fotografiska museum

In her words: “What will happen if man & woman exchange their roles of sex & roles of power? Because my boyfriend is Japanese, and I am Chinese, this project also describes a love and hate relationship.”

pixy liao male female gaze gender relations photos

“I am interested in the mundane life, in finding things and making fun of it, liberating it from what it is.” Hail Pixy Liao!

Hassan Hajjaj elevator fotografiska ny

At the Fotografiska NY, even the elevator is an opportunity for expression. The funky wallpaper and seats are an extension of Hassan Hajjaj’s exhibition.

moroccan fashion photography fotografiska photographer

The British-Moroccan photographer Hassan Hajjaj has been called “the Andy Warhol of Marrakesh.” He shoots vibrant portraits in a mash-up of street style, couture, kitsch, and urban culture.

vogue the arab issue morocco photographer Hassan Hajjaj

“Vogue: The Arab Issue” features Marrakesh locals wearing traditional Moroccan clothes, but in eccentric patterns and color combinations, along with faux designer label insignia. The result is a joyful celebration of personal expression.

Hassan Hajjaj VOGUE, The Arab Issue at Fotografiska New York

Hassan’s works come to life thanks to the staging, which includes picture frames made from Moroccan canned goods, and an energetic soundtrack.

Adrienne Raquel onyx strippers photos

Each floor’s design captures a different feeling. Adrienne Raquel’s Onyx takes an intimate look at exotic dancers, documenting sisterhood, self-transformation and strength in a world that is typically stigmatized.

Adrienne Raquel houston strip club dancers fotografiska

The dark lighting and booming dance music makes you feel as if you’re inside Houston’s Club Onyx, where she shot these photos. Raquel’s photos reveal the fantastical glamour of the industry, as well as candid moments with the women both on and off the stage.

fotografiska nyc tickets review museum tour

Every time I visit the Fotografiska NY, I discover new photographers that leave a powerful impression. If you’d like to see more, check out my article about my 2019 visit to the museum, as well as this review of the Fotografiska in Sweden.

kaws companion along the way huge sculpture

Victory-fingers for art museums in New York. A last look at my outfit that day — wearing Anthony Wang platform sandals, and a dress by For Love and Lemons (click for more below):


kaws brian donnelly art show brooklyn retrospective

PS: My latest travel article has dropped on Fodor’s Travel, with more to come. Read about 15 monuments around the world that hail the sun, including ancient sites in Egypt, Cambodia, Thailand, India, and Mexico that I’ve visited. Thank you for reading!

the satanic chef cookbook devil's food satanist adam dodge ostrofsky book

Finally… if you’re in the mood for a devilish dinner… The Satanic Chef (Adam Dodge Ostrofsky) published an impressive Satanic cookbook called “Devil’s Food!” It’s filled with creative recipes with a dark twist — from Dracula Red Velvet pancakes to long pig ribs. With full color photos, and stories about his work with The Satanic Temple, and more — find the book here.

I’m wearing a fuzzy pastel blue crop top by Fashion Chingu — They have an enormous selection of stylish clothing inspired by Kpop stars and K-idols! I’ll be featuring more of their fab designs soon. (And dreaming of going back to Seoul sooner rather than later…)



  1. Nikki_boagreis
    Posted March 5, 2022 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    OmG, that dress she’s wearing is so cute. Super adorable, looks amazing on her. Very cute.

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