/ Mark Frauenfelder / 12 pm Tue, Dec 23 2014
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  • Hello! Exploring the Superweird world of Hello Kitty

    Hello! Exploring the Superweird world of Hello Kitty

    An exhibit at the Japanese American National Museum showcases the beloved 40-year-old British girl known as Hello Kitty

    Last weekend I went with my wife and two daughters to the Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty exhibition at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles. It's described as a "retrospective product-based, historical, and sociological examination of the Hello Kitty phenomenon with an art exhibition emphasizing her influence on contemporary art." It was outstanding. I took a bunch of photos. The photo above is a Hello Kitty germ mask.

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    Sanrio was founded in 1960 as the Yamanashi Silk Center Company. As the name suggests, it dealt in silk fabric. Along the way, they produced a rubber beach sandal. They learned that when they added a decorative element such as a flower or strawberry, people liked the sandals more. That's when the company stopped dealing in silk and focused on "decorated everyday objects." The coin=purse above was made in 1974 and marks the first appearance of Hello Kitty. At this time she did not have a name or back story. (Some people have pointed out that Hello Kitty resembles Ray Goosen's Musti (1945) and Dick Bruna's Miffy (1955).)

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    Hello Kitty is a cheerful and happy little girl with a heart of gold. She lives in London with her mama (Mary White), papa (George White), and her twin sister Mimmy. — SanrioTown

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    These are miniature items. I wish I could have held my hand next to them to give you an idea of how tiny they are, but it was behind glass.

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    Hello Kitty motor oil!

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    There was a wall of images showing how Hello Kitty's design has changed over the years. My wife, daughters, and I picked our favorite and least favorite designs. This one without an outline was my favorite, but my wife and daughters thought it was a low point in Hello Kitty design.

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    The museum commissioned artists to create Hello Kitty themed works of art.

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    Audrey Kawasaki's painting was one of my favorites.

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    Paul Frank's vinyl sculpture stole the show (for me anyway!)

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    Who could resist the purr of a Hello Kitty "massage wand?"

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    Who thought it was a good idea to license Hello Kitty to Playboy?

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    Hello Kitty, in league with the dark spirits.

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    Who thought it was a good idea to license Hello Kitty to Hooters???

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    Colin Christian's space fembot bid us farewell at the exit.

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    Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty runs until April 26, 2015.

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