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Hello Kitty takes L.A. by storm

posted 11 Oct 2014, 06:35 by Mpelembe   [ updated 11 Oct 2014, 06:36 ]

It's supercute to the extreme - an entire museum exhibit dedicated to the past and present of Hello Kitty, just in time for her 40th birthday.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES (OCTOBER 10, 2014) (REUTERS) -  It'll be a 40th birthday to remember for Hello Kitty, and what more could a supercute girl want than an entire museum exhibition dedicated to her?

At the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, a retrospective exhibit looks at the wild life of the hugely popular mouthless cat who has become a global symbol of Japan's culture of "kawaii," or cute. From the very first use of Hello Kitty on a vinyl miniature coin purse, to giant artistic renditions of her as Cleopatra ("Kittypatra" by artist Simone Legno) and an anime-inspired action hero ("Super Space Titan Kitty" by Colin Christian), "Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of HelloKitty" will satisfy her biggest fans of all ages. Even Abraham Lincoln likes Hello Kitty, or at least it would seem that way, from a portrait by Scott Scheidly that hangs in the exhibit.

Since her creation in 1974 in a design contest in Japan, she has won over legions of international supporters who admire her message of love, friendship, and caring, including Janet Hsu, the President and COO of Sanrio, the company that owns HelloKitty. Hsu remembers her admiration for the character when she was growing up.

"I grew emotionally connected with her through the years. The reason why she inspires me is she's a friend to everyone, she's a unique companion to each person," says Hsu. "She touches every part of your world, like if you saw the entire exhibition, you could literally go from morning to evening with everything Hello Kitty, and she's very relevant, she represents friendship, love, thoughtfulness."

The exhibit features two parts - a retrospective of Hello Kitty's past, including her various used marketing everything from plush toys to aircraft, and a contemporary take on her life through an array of paintings, prints, sculptures and media from artists around the world.

Dr. Christine Yano served as co-curator of the retrospective portion of the exhibit, and says that Hello Kitty represented a turning point in the way that the world looked at Japanese culture abroad.

"I certainly see Hello Kitty very much in step with the popularity of Japanese pop culture in the United States, and certainly she was at the forefront of a kind of certainly a cute culture coming from Japan that grew in the United States," says Dr. Yano, who is also the author of "Pink Globalization: Hello Kitty's Trek Across the Pacific."

The love for Hello Kitty was so deep for Jamie Rivadeneira, the curator of the contemporary section, that she has built a life and career out of it. Eight years ago she decided to open JapanLA, a retail store in Los Angeles that is dedicated to Japanese cuteness, with Hello Kitty as a centerpiece. She says artists are drawn to Hello Kitty because they can take liberties with her character.

"She's a really good blank canvas, she doesn't have a mouth, she doesn't really have a personality written for her, like a story. She's made to put on product, so I feel like the artist can speak through her really easily, and project their emotions and their feelings on her," says Rivadeneira, who co-curated the exhibit.

Fans of Hello Kitty need not rush to Los Angeles -- "Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty" will run from October 10 through April 2015.