JANM Opens New Hello Kitty Exhibition

Los Angeles just got a little cuter with the opening of Japanese American National Museum’s newest exhibition, Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty, organized with Sanrio in honor of Hello Kitty’s 40th anniversary.

The first large-scale Hello Kitty museum in the United States, Hello! takes fans –– both the kids and the kids-at-heart –– on a trip through the brand’s archives, featuring vintage memorabilia, collections from collaborations and artwork that depicts the character’s evolution from a Japanese cultural figure into a global phenomenon. Visitors have the chance to view special pieces like the plastic coin purse –– the first Hello Kitty item Sanrio sold back in 1975 –– as well as Hello Kitty kitchen appliances, skateboards and surfboards and even a pair of boxers with the face of everyone’s favorite kitty stamped all over.

Gary Baseman for JANM

Gary Baseman for JANM

Older generations have the chance to journey back to their childhood with the wall of display cases featuring every Hello Kitty backpack Sanrio has ever produced. Another wall is lined with Hello Kitty plushes released throughout the years, giving viewers a visual representation of the brand’s transformation.

“I think our art portion stands up to any art exhibition in LA right now,” Dr. Greg Kimura, President and CEO of JANM, said last night at the VIP party for the exhibition, which was MCed by Japanese American actress (and former Audrey cover girl!) Tamlyn Tomita.

Hello Kitty vintage plush, 1976

Hello Kitty vintage plush, 1976

The art gallery proudly boasts 40 mixed-media works created specially for the exhibit by well-known artists such as Audrey Kawasaki and Gary Baseman, as well as collaborating brands like tokidoki and Swarovski. The celebrity and fashion portion of the exhibit illustrates the far-reaching influence of Hello Kitty, featuring the dress of plush toys Lady Gaga once wore for a photoshoot celebrating the character’s 35th birthday.

JANM has also opened a pop-up store for the exhibition, where visitors can purchase exclusive Hello Kitty for JANM items like pins, bags and coin purses.

The exhibition will be on view through April 26, 2015. Tickets are $20 for adults, $10 for ages 6-17 and free for ages 5 and under. JANM members receive free admission.

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Japan’s Creative Take on the Haunted House

In case you needed more proof that Japan is always taking old, tired concepts and turning them on their heads before the rest of the world can.

This past summer 2013 and continuing into 2014, The Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo, Japan opened a new exhibit for children titled “Ghosts, Underpants and Stars,” but its most popular project is the Torafu Architects’ Haunted Play House.

Created by Koichi Suzuno and Shinya Kamuro, Haunted Play House spins off the traditional dark, zombie and ghost-filled Halloween houses with a subtle yet eerie art gallery. The architectural installation contains hidden passageways, contorted paintings, funhouse mirrors and thousands of watching eyes.

It may be spooky, but the project also aims to educate children on art history while simultaneously fueling their imaginations.

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