Sanrio, the global lifestyle brand best known for Hello Kitty, has partnered with the Japanese American National Museum (JANM) to present Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty, a first-of-its-kind museum exhibition in honor of Hello Kitty’s 40th Anniversary. Opening October 11th and on view through April 26th, 2015, Hello! will explore the phenomenon and evolution of Hello Kitty through an extensive product retrospective featuring rare, unique and vintage pieces from Sanrio’s archives that embody the company’s mission of fostering and sharing happiness, friendship and fun, and an art exhibit featuring 40 mixed-media works by contemporary artists. Workshops, lectures, and panel discussions will be offered during the run of the exhibition.
“Hello Kitty is a beloved icon, both within the Japanese American community and globally. JANM is delighted to partner with Sanrio to share her fascinating story in the form of an exhibition and its catalog,” said Greg Kimura, President and CEO of JANM. “The exhibition itself is going to be a blockbuster, with hundreds of sensational historical artifacts plus multi-media works by outstanding contemporary artists who have been inspired by Hello Kitty. It’s designed to appeal to Hello Kitty fans of all ages and we look forward to sharing Hello Kitty’s story with the world.”
The exhibition’s combination of a product-based historical and sociological examination with a curated installation of contemporary works will offer opportunities for the public to explore Hello Kitty’s role in bridging Japanese and American cultures in the U.S. as well as her influence on contemporary art. The unique perspective of Hello Kitty’s evolution and brand legacy will also offer insight into fans’ emotional connection to the global icon.
“Since her debut on a small vinyl coin purse in Japan, Hello Kitty has become a global icon embraced by fans of all ages,” said Janet Hsu, President and COO of Sanrio. “We celebrate Hello Kitty’s 40th milestone anniversary with this first of its kind museum exhibition at JANM exploring her Japanese heritage, her impact on American culture over the last 40 years and her unique ability to connect with fans on many levels. This multi-dimensional exhibition brings the essence of Hello Kitty to life as we share her message of friendship and community with fans. ”
The exhibition will be co-curated by Dr. Christine Yano, author of Pink Globalization: Hello Kitty’s Trek Across the Pacific, and Jamie Rivadeneira, founder and owner of pop culture-inspired boutique JapanLA. Yano will curate the retrospective component of the exhibition to feature rare and iconic artifacts from Sanrio’s archives. Artifacts including a variety of plush spanning a 40 year timeline, Hello Kitty’s first telephone, stationery items and many more vintage products from the 1970s and 1980s will be on display along with more contemporary objects such as the one-of-a-kind Hello Kitty dress worn by Lady Gaga, diamond jewelry and a Hello Kitty talking robot, allowing fans to connect to Hello Kitty’s history and view her evolution as a true cultural ambassador. Jamie Rivadeneira will curate the exhibition’s art component, bringing in a selection of mixed media works that demonstrate Hello Kitty’s influence on contemporary art. A diverse list of artists, including Audrey Kawasaki, Brandi Milne, Gary Baseman, Kazuki Takamatsu, kozyndan, Osamu Watanabe, and Simone Legno for tokidoki, will be featured in the exhibition.
“When I began doing research on Hello Kitty in 1998, I approached it as a cultural anthropologist trying to make sense of the phenomenon,” said Dr. Yano. “In the process of interviewing fans, critics, artists, and Sanrio people, I came to appreciate the cleverness with which she has been created and sustained, as well as the wide variety of meanings given her. My hope is that the exhibition will capture the wide range of not only products, but also some of the emotional and aesthetic reactions to the products. These are ‘omigod’ moments of Hello Kitty inciting laughter, astonishment, affection, and maybe even dismay.”
“The art portion of the exhibition shows how Hello Kitty fits into any world to add cuteness,” said Ms. Rivadeneira. “Her simple design makes the perfect canvas for artists to interpret her through their unique style. Several different mediums, including sculpture, paint, ink, ceramics, animation, plush, photography, and wood were used to show that Hello Kitty can be interpreted in many ways without ever losing her core essence. Hello Kitty interpreted in art evokes a sense of nostalgia for people of all ages.”
In addition to the exhibition’s historical exploration and art installation, several interactive workshops, lectures and panel discussions will be offered to further examine Hello Kitty’s cultural impact and how her message of happiness, friendship and fun has resonated around the world. Sushi-making classes, artist panels, and special screenings are just a few programs that will give the public further opportunities to engage with the exhibition and the expansive world of Hello Kitty.
To commemorate the collaboration between Sanrio and JANM and pay tribute to Hello Kitty’s 40th Anniversary, JANM will produce a catalogue highlighting the art and artifacts from the exhibition. It will serve as both an overall guide for the exhibition and a collectible souvenir for fans to purchase from the JANM store. Other special Hello Kitty products exclusive to the exhibition will also be available for purchase at the museum store, including Hello Kitty and JANM co-branded items such as plush, bobble heads, tote bags, t-shirts, and other collectibles.
The exhibition is a specially ticketed event at JANM. Tickets for Hello! at JANM are available to JANM members beginning August 18th and for the general public beginning September 29th. Visit janm.org/hellokitty for further details and to obtain tickets.
Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty is a key element among several events and collaborations celebrating Hello Kitty’s 40th Anniversary, including Hello Kitty Con 2014, the first-ever Hello Kitty fan convention in partnership with Target at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA running October 30th – November 2nd. Fans can purchase their tickets for Hello Kitty Con 2014 now at http://www.sanrio.com/hellokittycon-tickets/; Hello Kitty Con 2014 ticket holders will also have same-day access to the museum exhibition at JANM located next door to MOCA. Unique collaborations with a diverse list of brands, new product releases, and Hello Kitty appearances around the globe to promote the Share a Hug with Hello Kitty! campaign will round out the year of festivities. Further details and updates on Hello Kitty’s 40th Anniversary celebration can be found at http://www.sanrio.com/hellokitty40th/.