KAWS x Fortnite at Serpentine North Gallery


Born as a graffiti artist, KAWS (Brian Donnelly) made a name for himself within the Pop Art tradition thanks to his “Companions” and his use of bold colors and imagery associated with consumer products, which made his artistic research approachable and engaging for everyone. Approachability is something he has always emphasized throughout his career: “'In my mind I thought, art's purpose is to communicate and reach people. Whichever outlet that's being done through is the right one”.
In fact, his latest exhibition can be considered an emblem of accessibility, in the sign of the Serpentine’s recent project which features collaborations between artists and the latest technology, opened with BTS in 2020.

KAWS, COMPANION (EXPANDED), augmented reality sculpture at Serpentine North Gallery - courtesy of KAWS, Acute Art and Serpentine Galleries

His show at the Serpentine Galleries in London, NEW FICTION, hosts about 30 of his works. The brilliant element of this exhibition is that you can visit it in ultra-high definition via the videogame Fortnite too. The more than 400 million players can explore the venues of the Serpentine dressed up as pink “Companion” skeletons while experiencing the artworks from a new and unexplored point of view: all this without having to leave the comforts of one’s house.
This allows millions of art enthusiasts to experience this show from all over the world without having to reach London, an important step to make art accessible to the largest audience possible.
Interestingly, KAWS is a Fortnite player too: he saw the potential in the game after watching other artists staging their events in virtual realities - “I understood the scope of games outside gaming. The creative community is pretty incredible, an eye-opener.”

NEW FICTION in Fortnite – courtesy of Epic Games

In addition, a further step has been taken towards accessibility thanks to Acute Art, a company that stands out for bringing together new technologies and the work of the most interesting contemporary artists. The company recently developed an app that hosts an augmented reality experience of the show: users can view all the pieces of the exhibition, place them in their own houses, and share the pictures on social media. Moreover, a miniature version of the entire show is visible as an AR work.
Daniel Birnbaum, the Artistic Director of Acute Art and curator of NEW FICTION at the Serpentine Galleries, said: “This project will reach a larger and more diverse audience than any other exhibition I have curated. It marks the beginning of a new chapter of art living in parallel worlds and reaching local and global audiences simultaneously. […] We have entered a new era!

KAWS, SEEING, augmented reality sculpture at Serpentine North Gallery - courtesy of KAWS, Acute Art and Serpentine Galleries

This is not the first time KAWS collaborated with Acute Art: in 2020 they launched COMPANION (EXPANDED), which brought an augmented-reality version of his works to eleven cities all around the world. People could view the pieces floating in the sky using the Acute Art app at specific locations.

KAWS, COMPANION (EXPANDED) – courtesy of KAWS and Acute Art

This combination of art and technology shows how important is that these two worlds cooperate: in a society where technologies have a predominant role, this has become a way to render art accessible and enjoyable for everyone. This is a much more efficient way to engage a wider audience and, above all, a way to draw the attention even of the people who didn’t receive education about arts: this is an important step towards rendering the idea of arts less elitist, but accessible to everyone!

Written by
Valentina Ricci