Kaws show gets court OK to resume in Singapore amid legal blow up

At left, AllRightsReserved founder SK Lam and American artist Brian Donnelly aka Kaws and the installation at The Float @ Marina Bay, at right. Photos: Rkrkrk, Aiksooon
At left, AllRightsReserved founder SK Lam and American artist Brian Donnelly aka Kaws and the installation at The Float @ Marina Bay, at right. Photos: Rkrkrk, Aiksooon

Singapore can get up and close to a giant inflatable art installation which blew up into a legal battle after a nonprofit tried to halt its opening. 

The Kaws:Holiday Singapore exhibition at The Float @ Marina Bay will resume today after a court order halting it was withdrawn yesterday. It had been issued on behalf of nonprofit The Ryan Foundation, which previously tried to bring the installation to Singapore and accuses Hong Kong-based organizer AllRightsReserved of violating intellectual property rights and confidentiality. 

“AllRightsReserved and KAWS:HOLIDAY Singapore welcomes the Court’s judgement today, for justice has prevailed. Our company hopes that people can relieve their burdens under the pandemic and relax on the shores of the beautiful Marina Bay,” the Hong Kong creative studio said in a media release last night, adding that the nonprofit was ordered to fund legal costs.

The Ryan Foundation filed suit Saturday just before a media preview at which American artist Brian Donnelly, aka Kaws, was present. It obtained an interim injunction to stop the event, that had been due to run one week beginning Sunday, and cease all sales and distribution of merchandise. 

The location had been “temporarily closed” since Sunday, much to Singapore’s disappointment. 

Nonprofit Founder Ryan Su said that his group had previously been negotiating to bring the exhibition to Singapore in 2019, but it didn’t work out. He did not elaborate on what had happened.

The 42-meter installation showcases Donnelly’s signature Companion character, recognizable for the bones in his head and X-ed out eyes, in a reclined position embracing a miniature version of itself. Various versions of the installation have toured Seoul, Taipei, Hong Kong, Japan, the United Kingdom, and even sent into space.

“Ryan Su talk to us! Why did you do this lame action?” Donnelly, 47, wrote online last night.

“We find it truly disgusting that The Ryan Foundation and Ryan Su attempted to stop the free public exhibition in this unlawful way! Please crawl in a hole but not in ours that we made with our gathered sticks and hard work!” he added, taking on the persona of the raft of otters which invaded the site Sunday.

The nonprofit responded to the news saying that although the exhibition was back up and running, the public knew it had been tainted. It will proceed with its legal action in the High Court.  

“The interim injunction is a temporary one and we are happy that the public gets to enjoy the artwork. The circumstances are now that the public is aware that the exhibition had been built on confidential information as we proceed to full trial,” Director Adrian Chan wrote in a release. “This is a long case that will be fought for all the freelancers and creatives whose ideas, pitches and work has been stolen or used without authorisation.” 

Kaws:Holiday Singapore will be the last event for the Marina Bay space before it begins renovations in March.

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