KAWS for Reflection: Giant sculpture unveiled on Victoria Harbour

The “KAWS:HOLIDAY” installation moored on the Hong Kong waterfront this afternoon. Photo by Stuart White.

The much-ballyhooed “KAWS:HOLIDAY” floating sculpture installation set sail on Victoria Harbour today, drawing mostly positive reviews — not to mention stares — from Hongkongers enjoying the waterfront this afternoon.

The 37-meter inflatable figure, an iteration of the street artist and design world darling Kaws’ “Companion” character, was towed across the harbor today to the Central and Western District Promenade, where it was descended upon by selfie-snappers (and a few fans of the artist as well).

Onlookers snap photos of the Kaws installation as its towed past the Wan Chai ferry pier today. Photo by Stuart White.
Onlookers snap photos of the Kaws installation as it’s towed past the Wan Chai ferry pier today. Photo by Stuart White.

Event manager Nash Kwong, who took in the enormous sculpture as he crossed the harbor from Wan Chai to Tsim Sha Tsui today, called the sculpture a “special element in the harbor.”

While Kwong didn’t venture a guess as to what the corpse-like, X-eyed figure’s greater meaning might be, he allowed it was “quite attractive for locals and tourists.”

Recalling the giant floating rubber duckie that previously graced the harbor, he said the installations add “some fun to Hong Kong.”

Ferry passengers take in the Kaws floating exhibition in Victoria Harbor today. Photo by Stuart White.
Ferry passengers take in the Kaws floating exhibition in Victoria Harbor today. Photo by Stuart White.

Edwin Li, meanwhile, was well aware of Kaws before today’s unveiling, having collected some of his pieces in the past. The artist’s commercial success, he said, may have had the unintended consequence of dampening a wider appreciation of his work for its own sake.

“Unfortunately people now don’t appreciate his stuff. People just buy it to flip it,” he said, standing on the promenade where the piece was moored.

Despite being a bona fide fan, however, Li also declined to speculate as what metaphorical significance, if any, the piece was meant to convey.

“I have no idea, to be honest,” he said.

Is this artist painting a picture of Kaws' floating installation a meta commentary on the fetishization of art world superstardom, or is it just a dude painting a picture of a floating thing? Who's to say, really. Photo by Stuart White.
Is this artist painting a picture of Kaws’ floating installation a meta commentary on the fetishization of art world superstardom, or is it just a dude painting a picture of a floating thing? Who’s to say, really. Photo by Stuart White.

Indeed, assessed as a didactic work, the sculpture’s message remains elusive. Is it a commentary on alienation? On modernity? Perhaps it’s a statement premised on the notion that even in a post-aestheticist milieu, our frenzied efforts to graft meaning onto every work of art are reductive at best, and foolhardy at worst.

Or is the message perhaps simpler?

“I think this is to tell us to relax, because he is just laying back in the sea,” said Toby Tong, who also stopped by to snap a few photos of the figure.

“But the color is gray and white, so maybe a little bit of a message about death.”


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