Millennials in hoodies spend $38 million on Simpsons art at Hong Kong auction

A painting by Brooklyn street artist Kaws based on the Beatles' Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album but populated with Simpsons characters was sold for US$14.8 million including fees, a record for the artist and about 15 times the estimate.
A painting by Brooklyn street artist Kaws based on the Beatles' Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album but populated with Simpsons characters was sold for US$14.8 million including fees, a record for the artist and about 15 times the estimate.PHOTO: AFP

HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) - Millennials snapped up US$28 million (S$38 million) worth of art inspired by the Simpsons television show, along with skateboarding shoes and cans of spray paint, at a Sotheby's auction in Hong Kong as a new generation of collectors comes of age.

"The auction room suddenly got a lot hipper with all these cool millennial buyers in hoodies," said Mr Edie Hu, art advisory specialist at Citi Private Bank in Hong Kong. "Their tastes are very different from their parents' and Sotheby's is tapping into that."

The highlight of the 33-lot auction of items belonging to Japanese fashion designer Nigo was a painting by Brooklyn street artist Kaws based on the Beatles' Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album but populated with Simpsons characters. It sold to an unidentified buyer for US$14.8 million including fees, a record for the artist and about 15 times the estimate.

A young Chinese buyer with a short back and sides haircut, who was wearing a green army camouflage jacket, shelled out US$2.6 million for another Kaws piece called Untitled (Kimpsons #3). The work depicts the Simpson family sprawled unconscious on their couch, with the artist's signature crosses for eyes.

"I am not surprised by the demand, but I am surprised by the final number," said Mr Max Dolgicer, a New York collector who has been buying the artist's work for seven years. "It's a very fast-moving market."

In November, another painting by Kaws, whose real name is Brian Donnelly, sold for a then-record US$3.5 million. Last week, a 37m long inflatable version of his signature character, called Companion, floated on its back in Hong Kong's Victoria Harbour during the Art Basel Hong Kong art fair.

Other items at the auction included two pairs of sneakers designed by Kaws for Nigo's A Bathing Ape (Bape) line of clothing that fetched US$16,000, and an 18.5-inch high Kaws figure based on the Japanese manga character Astro Boy, which sold for US$303,000.