What Happens When You Combine Uniqlo, Andy Warhol’s Art and Kaws?

In what appears to be a quintessential Warholian exchange, Uniqlo is sponsoring the “Kaws + Warhol” exhibition tour.

Suitably, the exhibition will debut in Pittsburgh at The Andy Warhol Museum on May 18 before moving on to multiple locations around the globe, including its final stop in Tokyo in 2026.

More from WWD

The pairing of works by Warhol and Kaws side-by-side will be the first time that the noirish themes that percolate beneath their pop culture and colorful hues will be explored. Patrick Moore, director of The Andy Warhol Museum, who has said he will be leaving his post at the end of May, will move to Madrid with his Spanish husband and will work in a yet-to-be-announced role that will include curating and more in Europe. He deferred further comment until later this month, when a formal announcement will be made.

While some brands have gravitated toward artists in recent years, or months, for one-off capsule collections, street art as advertising, or social media reach, Uniqlo has been supporting the art world, museums and patrons for more than a decade through initiatives with MoMA, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Louvre, the Tate and others. To encourage interest in the arts through its “Art for All” initiative, Uniqlo has offered free admission programs, collaborative merchandise, special events and other initiatives. Additionally, Uniqlo supports the Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirror Rooms at Tate Modern, and has done so since May 2021. Uniqlo incorporated Andy Warhol’s art into its products in 2004 and the chain has teamed up with Kaws since 2016.

Moore, who is curating the exhibition, said, “We really need to get young people into museums. When I see young people reacting to Kaws’ work, I think, ‘How could you not want to present that?’ It’s such a lovely thing because they can interact with it in the galleries or buy a figurine or T-shirt. I love that there are a lot of entry points for young people with this work,” he said.

The exhibition will showcase an array of pieces from the two artists. Kaws, whose given name is Brian Donnelly, has a track record with the Fast Retailing-owned entity, having collaborated on T-shirts and other ventures. Last fall Uniqlo prominently displayed his Phaidon-published book in the retailer’s Fifth Avenue windows. The upcoming show’s signature image is “Kaws, Companion, 2020,” an oversize sculpture face down on the floor, with Warhol’s “Ambulance Disaster” from 1964-65 hung above the figure.

The darker undercurrents are everywhere, according to Moore, who pointed to Kaws’ predilection for “X”-ed out eyes, skulls and figures laying flat on the floor as if they have collapsed or died. Putting that beside Warhol’s famed car crash paintings, images of skulls and electric chairs amplifies that message. “The thing that’s interesting is that all of this very dark imagery is really catnip to younger generations that are always captivated by the spectacle of death or self-destructiveness. The paintings and sculptures really seem to bring out that interest.”

“Kaws, Companion, 2020”

At the lighter end of the spectrum, there will be a plexiglass-encased wall displaying the cartoonish cereal boxes that the Brooklyn-based Kaws designed for a General Mills collaboration in 2022 and has since repainted the covers of the boxes to turn them into paintings for the show. That is akin to how Warhol liked to wallpaper walls with wallpaper that he had designed and hang paintings on top of it, according to Moore. The show will feature a series of Warhol’s Brillo Boxes, precise replicas of the branded commercial packaging, near the cereal-inspired ones from Kaws. For a stretch, shoppers could buy the Kaws-crafted cereal boxes and he also designed plastic toy figures for “Count Chocula” and other characters that were inside of some of the cereal boxes. The artist has reimagined those toys as 5-foot bronze sculptures.

Referring to how Marcel Duchamp once placed a porcelain urinal on a wall, signed it (“R. Mutt” in 1917) and called it art, Moore spoke of the idea of playing with that line between an object that is not real, but looks real. Positioning Warhol’s Brillo Boxes with Kaws’ “truly consumer objects” that were created for General Mills will make people go “truly nuts,” Moore said.

Moore said the exhibition would not have been complete had it not had a commercial partner like Uniqlo, because Uniqlo has supported Warhol and Kaws through the years. “Both of those artists try to gleefully erase the line between commerce and ‘fine art.’ That happens so beautifully with Uniqlo because Uniqlo has really made a commitment with not just the estate of Warhol, but also with Kaws — Brian Donnelly — to let them kind of go wild and experiment and get their work out to a truly mass audience and a global audience.”


As home to Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh is a hub for college students, many of whom love to shop. As wonderful as the city is in many ways, it does not have a Uniqlo or stores for some of the other fashion brands that undergrads might want to wear, Moore said. “This is something that young people in Pittsburgh can have at their fingertips and celebrate. That’s really incredible. When I walk around the city, I see young kids, who I may or may not see at the museum, wearing things from Warhol and from Kaws,” said Moore.

Andy Warhol
Andy Warhol

Exhibition goers and other art fans will be able to buy Uniqlo’s special collection that KAWS and the Andy Warhol Foundation helped develop. Uniqlo was not part of another  Warhol exhibition “FAME: Andy Warhol in AlUla,” that Moore curated in Saudi Arabia last year. “That would have been super cool. They would have sold a lot of merchandise there because it was filled with young people.”

After being criticized by some for the show’s location, Moore responded by writing an op-ed piece defending that decision.

Asked if the funding of art is increasingly falling to brands and corporations due to certain states pulling back governmental funding and some donors are dialing back their philanthropy, Moore said, “Certainly in this country that’s true, but I hope that individuals will continue to be part of that mix. We know in Europe that museums that had previously relied entirely on public support are starting to think about the American model. It is important that you have global partners like Uniqlo so that you can invest in the arts.”

Best of WWD