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A large collective exhibition celebrates Hello Kitty's 45th birthday

Reminding us of the passion that art and fashion have for the famous kitten

A large collective exhibition celebrates Hello Kitty's 45th birthday Reminding us of the passion that art and fashion have for the famous kitten

Hello Kitty turns 45. To celebrate this important birthday, the Corey Helford Gallery in Los Angeles has decided to organize a huge collective exhibition. From June 29th 100 artists from all over the world will show their works of art inspired by Sanrio's iconic character, names with the likes of Okuda San Miguel, Andrew Brandou, Kazuki Takamatsu

Created by Yuko Shimizu in 1974, Hello Kitty appears for the first time on a Japanese purse. Then came school-related products such as notebooks, pens, cases and in a short time, the tender character became so popular that it invaded every object, from mobile phones to kitchen utensils, from car to jewellery, from sex toys to musical instruments, from coffins to Ferrari. Her popularity is still so explosive today, in her homeland and all over the world, that there are many hotels, trains, themed parks and soon also a movie dedicated to her. Since the mid-1990s, when the worldwide success arrived, Hello Kitty has become a real cult object. We all got to know that kitten with a red bow over her left ear. A few years ago, however, we discovered that the sweet creature is not an animal, but an English girl about eight years old, as tall as five apples and as heavy as three, whose full name is Kitty White. Or rather, to be precise, it is an anthropomorphization, like Mickey Mouse.

According to many, the key element that differentiates the character of Sanrio from Disney is the same that amplifies its success: the lack of the mouth. The neutral design, without expression, allows people to see in her what they want. Yuko Yamaguchi, the current character designer of Hello Kitty, explains it well:

[She doesn't have a mouth] so that people who look at her can project their own feelings onto her face, because she has an expressionless face. Kitty looks happy when people are happy. She looks sad when they are sad. For this psychological reason, we thought she shouldn't be tied to any emotion – and that's why she doesn't have a mouth.

This essential design allows people to see in Kitty what they prefer and can see different personalities only by changing a few details: from the rocker to the cook, from the nurse to the astronaut, from the teacher to the princess,... With its pastel colors, the essential aspect, childish and defenseless, the manga invented by Shimizu is the perfect embodiment of kawaii, the Japanese cute culture, so much so that Christine Yano speaks of Pink Globalization to define the extensive spread of products and images tagged as cute from Japan to other parts of the world.

Whatever its true identity, it is undeniable that Hello Kitty is now part of our daily lives, having invaded every aspect of society, from the world of fashion to the world of art as demonstrated by the current Californian exhibition and, above all, the many artists who over the years have played with the image of the popular anthropomorphic cat. A few names? Shepard Fairey with his street style, the sculptor Colin Christian with his robot version, Buff Monster, Kozyndan, Paul Frank, POSE, Raul Gonzalez, RISK, Ron English, SEVER, Shane Jessup, Simone Legno, THANK YOU X, Tim Conlon, Tristan Eaton and others. The most famous artist to rework the sweet Kitty is Tom Sachs in a series of giant installations and in the provocative Hello Kitty Nativity, a nativity in which the protagonists are Hello Kitty and Bart Simpson in different variations. Sachs explained:

She's a pure merchandising icon. Hello Kitty is universal. Has an almost Buddhist sense of nothingness. The purity makes her a great vehicle for understanding the truth in our lives. 

If the attraction of art towards Sanrio's best seller product is huge, the passion of the fashion world is even greater. In fact, there are many brands that have collaborated with Kitty. The kawaii princess has appeared on sneakers, t-shirts, bags, sweatshirts and many other items created by Christian Louboutin, John Galliano, Yohji Yamamoto, Vans, MAC, Yohji Yamamoto, Hello Kitty x Leaf Xia, Comme des Garçons, Louis Vuitton, Furla, Lazy Oaf, GUESS, Puma, Stussy, Herschel Supply, A Bathing Ape, Opening Ceremony, Leaf Xia, Anti Social Club, Converse, FILA, Ryan Lo,... 

Hello Kitty has something magical, it is a real magnet that attracts fans of all generations and hordes of buyers who want to own his every gadget or capsule collection. Journalist Meghan Keane is right when she writes that the little manga "invades hearts through the weapons of sweetness" and adds "who can resist all this?".