KAWS is the graffiti artist turned contemporary art superstar. KAWS, whose real name is Brian Donnelly, has become one of the most successful artists of the 21st century with over 3 million followers on Instagram and his work selling for as little as $50 at Uniqlo last year and up to $14 million at auction. He was born in Jersey City, New Jersey in 1974 and raised in Easton, Pennsylvania, KAWS began tagging his ‘Companion’ character as a teenager.

From the catwalk to the gallery, KAWS is now gaining popularity worldwide among collectors and critics alike. With his prices set to skyrocket even more, now is the time to acquire one of his ingenious pieces, which straddles the line between high and low art by blurring it.

You might recognise the work of KAWS from your trips to New York City’s Canal Street district. His ‘Companion’ figures – a Mickey Mouse-style character with an oversized head and crossed-out eyes – are a common sight there. The artist himself has said that the character is partly based on Mickey Mouse, but “has an element of violence to it”.

KAWS rose to fame in 1994 when he was just 19 years old and still at school, his work gaining attention for its confrontation with Disney characters. Soon after, he began producing work for Andy Warhol’s Factory and the musician Pharrell Williams. By 1998, KAWS was exhibiting in galleries such as Deitch Projects and had opened his own store on Prince Street in SoHo where he sold clothing featuring his ‘Companion’ design.

Having achieved success with graffiti art, KAWS turned his hand to sculptural works. His ‘Blind Skateboarder’, which debuted at the ‘Unnatural History’ exhibition at Deitch Projects in 1999, is a clear predecessor of his ‘Companion’ figures and can be seen as symbolic of the artist taking an important step in the direction he continues to take today.

KAWS’ ‘Companion’ characters have since become his primary output, having made their way into high-end retail stores worldwide and appearing on catwalks by Louis Vuitton, Comme des Garcon PLAY and even in Dior’s Pre-Fall 2012 collection designed by Raf Simons.

The artist’s work was even used in a recent advertising campaign by Uniqlo containing a range of graphic T-shirts and hoodies with his designs on them. Here, they appeared alongside the likes of Snoop Dogg, Kirsten Dunst and Pharrell Williams, further exposing his work to the masses.Uniqlo’s profits from these T-shirts were donated to Save The Children with KAWS stating that the charity “helps provide comfort and security for children around the world, working towards a future where all children are treated equally."