All Aboard the KAWS Train – MTA Subway Wrapped Inside and Out
All aboard the KAWS train! Not only is Brian Donnelly, the artist better known as KAWS, the fifth living artist to have a balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, he also designed the entire campaign for it as well. Among the highlights of the campaign is this incredible 3-car MTA shuttle wrapped inside and out with KAWS’ design. The S train travels exclusively between Grand Central and Times Square, two of the biggest transit hubs in New York City, accessible by almost any other train. Also, since it just goes back and forth between the two stations, that means it’s never more than 5-minutes away.
No doubt this represents a massive change in the ideology of the city and the MTA that have taken every measure to prevent graffiti and erase that ‘blemish’ from the history of the transit system. In the documentary Style Wars a group of graffiti artists banded together and, in the words of Duro, tried to “negogiate” with the city in an attempt to get permission to paint the New York City subway. These artist-designed vinyl-wrapped wholecars are a far stretch from the days when NYC’s transit system was covered inside and out with unsanctioned graffiti, but may just be the closest opportunity people have today to reliving the experience. Although it’s not quite the same as seeing a top-to-bottom straight letter pull into the station, these three train cars commissioned and paid for by Macy’s appear to have granted KAWS a good deal of creative freedom and include the artist’s signature and biography.
KAWS first made a name for himself as a graffiti artist painting billboards and freight trains in New Jersey and walls in New York with members of the influential crews FC and TC-5. He then began to adapt his craft, subverting bus stop and phone booth advertisements by incorporating his signature cartoon skull and crossbones character with X’s over it’s eyes. In the late 90s, KAWS began to design and produce limited edition vinyl toys and later launched the clothing line Original Fake, opening a flagship store in Tokyo, Japan.
Over the past decade KAWS’ art career has skyrocketed having solo exhibitions at Gering & Lopez Gallery in New York, Honor Frasier Gallery in Los Angeles, Galerie Perrotin in Paris, the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Connecticut and at The High Museum of Art in Atlanta. In addition to his flourishing fine art career, KAWS’ work with Macy’s comes after a long list of collaborations with major brands including Hennessy and Nike to name a few. Scroll down to check out 12ozProphet’s photos of the KAWS train and take a ride to 42nd Street to see it for yourself.
Text and Photo: 12ozProphet