KAWS and the Standard Approach




Last summer when Brooklyn-based artist Brian Donnelly, aka KAWS, was headed to Hong Kong to oversee the production of a 20-foot-tall sculpture of his famous Companion mouse character going up in Harbour City, he asked his friend Claire Darrow what he should do with the piece, which was his to keep, after the exhibition. “I said, ‘Why don’t you let me put it in front of the Standard?'” recalls Darrow, who’s served as André Balazs’s creative director for the past 14 years. Donnelly had previously created lightbulbs for the Standard Shop featuring his character’s trademark double X as a filament, and he jumped at the opportunity.

The giant mouse, a seated figure with X-marked gloves over his eyes, most recently perched on the sculpture lawn of Connecticut’s Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, which held the first-ever KAWS retrospective last year. Today Companion (Passing Through) will land in front of the New York hotel before going to Atlanta’s High Museum in the fall. For Darrow, the KAWS installation is just another chapter in the Standard’s “super organic” approach to art programming.

“We don’t start off the year with a schedule of things that have to happen,” says Darrow. Another prime example of this serendipitous approach is the case of Julia Chiang (Donnelly’s girlfriend), who previously installed one of her ephemeral Ring Pop sculptures for the opening of New York’s Standard Shop. During last year’s Art Basel Miami Beach she planned an installation of flowers at OHWOW gallery, which moved at the last second to a tent, making her effort impossible. So she installed at the Standard, which also premiered Marco Brambilla’s new short, Evolution, and unveiled the first installation of Ryan McGinness’s “Black Light” paintings.

“I’d been attending those 50 parties Ryan did last year, and after the drawing salon party, he got really interested in drawing these figures of women and then turning them into these icons and he decided he wanted to do a show in Miami,” she says. Darrow first worked with McGinness a decade ago while making graphics for the Downtown Standard in Los Angeles. McGinness also painted his Day-Glo pole dancer icons on the hotel’s Sixth Street mural—a well-worn stop for up-and-coming Angelenos like Van Gogh-obsessed street artist Gregory Siff. While it might seem like repeatedly working with specific artists could inspire politicking amongst galleries, Darrow says she avoids conflict because she’s not looking to compete with any institutions.

“I never wanted the Standard to be an art gallery, to be in the business of selling art for the sake of selling art,” says Darrow. “We don’t hang art in any of our lobbies or rooms, and I don’t think we ever will.” She’s subtly differentiating the Standard from other art-centric hotels like Soho House, which recently employed Brit painter Jonathan Yeo to curate its properties. “I think what they’re doing is cool because they’re paying artists in trade, but, to be honest, I don’t really pay attention to what the other hotels are doing. When I run into someone who’s doing something cool, I just say, ‘Hey can I support that in some way?’ We’re just looking to do cool projects and make things happen.”