By Park Min-young
If Mickey Mouse is a Westerner who captured the world, Hello Kitty is the world's sweetheart from Asia. With its innocent two black dot eyes and the cute ribbon on its ear, the white-faced kitty has captivated the hearts of women of all ages since 1974.
Hello Kitty is found on more than 50 thousand items from toys, school supplies, makeup and even neckties and men's underwear.
To commemorate the character's 35th birthday, the exhibition "Inside Kitty" is underway at Seongnam Arts Center in Yatab-dong.
"Kitty was not popular at all at first, even in Japan. It is only since 1985, 11 years after its birth, that people started to pay some attention to it," Yuko Yamaguchi, third chief designer of the character, told the press last month.
Yamaguchi has been working on designs of the character for 29 years now. Seeing her in vivid colored clothes, beaded necklace and wearing her hair in two buns - one at each side - despite her age (which she refused to disclose), it seemed only right that she is called as "the mother of Hello Kitty."
"Hello Kitty was only for kids back then. But in 1987, I got a letter from a high school student who said that her friends tease her because she has a Hello Kitty product. She requested the company make something that was not weird for her to carry around. So, since then, I have tried to come up with things that all generations could enjoy," Yamaguchi said.
Hello Kitty soon rose in fame after the character was displayed in Anna Sui boutiques in the United States. Young women around the world have fallen in love with the character ever since. The boutique of MAC, a makeup brand, was packed with women on the day the brand released its collaborated works with Hello Kitty.
"The character has to communicate with people. It should change as time goes by, and always stay fashionable," Yamaguchi said.
"Inside Kitty" starts by viewing the past of the character. Kitty fans will be delighted to see the nostalgic Hello Kitty items of the past 35 years on display.
The highlight of the show, however, would be the character's artistic transformation. Forty contemporary artists including graphic designer Kim Du-seob, installation artist Byun Dae-yong and super model-turned-party planner Miggi Chi reinterpreted Hello Kitty in various modern ways.
Parody versions of the masterpieces such as Georges Seurat's "Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte" or the sweet cat's rebellious attitude in graffiti are fairly humorous.
The show runs through June 28 at Seongnam Arts Center in Yatab-dong, Gyeonggi Province. Tickets are 15,000 won ($16.50).