Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty

40 artists create new works for the first-ever Hello Kitty retrospective at LA's Japanese American National Museum


As part of Hello Kitty’s 40th Anniversary celebration, the adorably cute character will be celebrated in numerous ways, including a birthday party, Hello Kitty Con and her first-ever museum retrospective at the Japanese American National Museum (JANM) in downtown LA’s Little Tokyo neighborhood. Curated by Dr Christine Yano, author of “Pink Globalization: Hello Kitty’s Trek Across the Pacific”, the comprehensive exhibit will feature an extensive collection of vintage and rare Hello Kitty products from Sanrio’s archives. And JapanLA curator Jamie Rivadeneira has assembled a colorful collection of 40 new works of art in a section of the show highlighting Hello Kitty as muse.

A walk through the galleries reveals the evolution of Hello Kitty. One room is filled with original items from the ’70s and ’80s, from the first vinyl coin purse to a rotary phone, mini friendship kits, pencils and lunch boxes. The home area continues to show the widespread admiration across various products and includes toasters, a popcorn popper and a boombox. Yano dedicates one wall to the numerous backpack designs over the years, while another section shows collaborations with Sephora, Paul Frank, Doc Martens, Barbie and MAC Cosmetics. The Japanese collection shows Hello Kitty on sake sets, food shapers and ice cube trays. In a further gesture of the diverse merchandise Hello Kitty graces, an area called “the unexpected” includes items like bowling balls and motor oil.


For Hello Kitty as a muse, Rivandeneira called upon some of Sanrio’s favorite artists to celebrate how Hello Kitty adds cuteness to the world. The results are 40 pieces of art made from paint, ink, ceramic, animation, plush, photography and wood, offering contemporary mixed media interpretations of Hello Kitty’s world.

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Colin Christian created an anime Hello Kitty. “It is pink and white and really cute,” shares Rivadeneira. “And Michael Courville made the shape of Hello Kitty’s face out of vintage flower pins. He has also made the Wisdom Tree and other set designs pieces at Puroland made out of his collection of vintage flowers pins.” Osamu Watanabe sees Hello Kitty as a confection dancing on a cake with a waffle wand.


Eimi Takano specializes in creating the ultimate cute characters. Her Kawaii Oishii show will be on view at JapanLA and her adorable Hello Kitty mixed-media tribute is part of the JANM retrospective. Takano calls Hello Kitty “a childhood friend.” She explains, “When I was a little girl, my parents bought me Hello Kitty candy at the Sanrio shop. It was such a huge pleasure for me and my Hello Kitty pencil box was my favorite treasure.” Takano was excited to make her plush Hello Kitty Ribbon Camp part of the family of cute characters she creates everyday.

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Hello Kitty is an icon. An icon of culture, an ambassador of kawaii, connecting the East and the West. An icon of fashion, unbound by age and gender, eternally en vogue.

Martin Hsu painted his Hello Kitty Transcendence in soft colors with traditional flowers and tiny characters standing side by side under a shared umbrella, “I love Hello Kitty because I believe in unspoken messages,” explains Hsu. “Where all love is left unsaid, but understood.” He adds, “Hello Kitty is an icon. An icon of culture, an ambassador of kawaii, connecting the East and the West. An icon of fashion, unbound by age and gender, eternally en vogue. Most personally, an icon of nostalgia, in remembrance of cherished times growing up in Asia.” Hsu considers being one of the 40 artists celebrating Hello Kitty’s 40th Anniversary at JANM a tremendous honor.

In Brandi Milne’s painting, Hello Kitty wears a giant heart headband behind her classic red bow and a party filled with cake, candy and balloons. “She’s so simple and so cute!” says Milne. “I was really drawn to that character design. Something about it really spoke to me as a kid, and I found similar design elements in my own work as it has developed through the years.”


Gary Baseman depicts Hello Kitty and the Sanrio characters into a landscape mingling with his own creatures Toby, Chou and Ahwroo in a painting he calls Play Date. This image will also be of the eight prints along with a one by Audrey Kawasaki that will be available for purchase at the museum.

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Simone Legno of Tokidoki created a 10-foot tall statue he calls “Kittypatra,” complete with hieroglyphics. Rivadeneira created corresponding JapanLA hieroglyphic tops, dresses and kimonos, which will be available at the museum shop.

Other artists that created works for the show include Kazuki Takamatsu, Konatsu, Kristin Tercek, Mark Nixon, Jonathan Stein, Junko Mizuno, Kevin Earl Taylor, and Marc Dennis. “Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty” opens 11 October 2014 and run through 26 April 2015 at JANM.

Images courtesy of JANM